The government decided Wednesday to dispatch a diplomat to China in a bid to stop it from sending 35 North Korean defectors back to the North. Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan made the announcement in an urgent meeting with the ruling Grand National Party prior to a National Assembly audit of his ministry.
The North Koreans were arrested in various parts of China. Two of them already have South Korean citizenship and were apparently assisting the flight of others. “We're checking whether elderly people and children are among them. They should not be repatriated," Kim said. "We've strongly demanding that China does not repatriate them and will continue to talk with Beijing."
GNP lawmakers called on the Foreign Ministry to take up the case with more assertive tactics to avoid setting a bad precedent.
GNP lawmakers pointed out that the two defectors who already have South Korean citizenship face almost certain death if they are sent back to North Korea.
The activist group Commission to Help North Korean Refugees on Sunday said Chinese police arrested the 35 in Shenyang, Weihai and Yanji and plans to send them back to the North.