Thirty-five North Korean defectors who were arrested in various parts of China are facing repatriation, including a couple of people smugglers who already have South Korean citizenship.
In an urgent statement Sunday, the activist group Commission to Help North Korean Refugees said Chinese police arrested the 35 in Shenyang, Weihai and Yanji and plans to send them back to the North.
Twenty were arrested when they gathered at a bus terminal in Shenyang on Sept. 26 to travel south on the defector trail via Laos and Thailand. Ten others were arrested in Weihai.
The other five were arrested in Yanji last Thursday and Friday. They are being held in Yanbian and are awaiting repatriation to the North.
"One or two of the 35 are presumed to be brokers who defected to South Korea and gained South Korean citizenship," a spokesman for the activists said. "Once they are repatriated, they face harsh punishment including public execution."
The Foreign Ministry is trying to find out more through the South Korean consulates in Shenyang and Qingdao, a spokesman said.