Protests against China's repatriation of North Korean defectors that went on for 77 days across the street from the Chinese Embassy in Seoul are evolving into a broader movement aimed at educating and supporting defectors from the North.
"Based on the support we have received for our protest against the repatriations, we will establish a foundation and try to improve educational conditions for defectors here," said Park Sun-young, a lawmaker with the conservative Liberty Forward Party who led the protest.
Park said she plans to launch a foundation next month to open an alternative school for North Korean children and offer English-learning programs for North Korean defectors at university here.
Around 100 people from all walks of life have offered to join the foundation, Park said. "The Jungchul language institute has offered to teach English to North Korean children, and Korean-American businesspeople have pledged to support trips to the U.S. and help defectors at university here learn English," Park said.
She added she plans to visit the U.K. later this month to seek support from politicians there for North Korean defectors and attend an international seminar on human rights abuses in the North.
Park went on an 11-day hunger strike at the protest site in February, galvanizing both domestic and international attention for the plight of defectors. South Koreans who heard about the protest came to the makeshift tent where Park was staying and prayed, and civic and religious groups also joined. A worldwide petition against China's repatriation of North Korean defectors drew 220,000 signatures.