August 02, 2012 10:11
China asked Seoul to make sure that South Koreans stop engaging in "organized activities" there to help North Koreans escape if South Korean activist Kim Young-hwan was to be released. Kim was tortured during his 114 days in Chinese detention for helping North Korean refugees.
A senior diplomatic source here on Wednesday said China attempted to make Kim's release contingent on South Korea putting a stop to activists' help for North Korean defectors in the three northeastern Chinese provinces.
"China threatened not to release Kim unless Seoul promises to stop organized assistance for North Korean defectors, but the South Korean government declined," the source added.
A senior South Korean government official confirmed the story.
China is worried about the activities of South Korean NGOs helping North Koreans in the provinces adjacent to North Korea. Chinese police fear that North Koreans could escape en masse if organized assistance increases.
There is also speculation that the North Korean regime has asked Beijing for help. After Seoul declined to meet its demand, China reportedly decided to deport Kim after a visit to Seoul last month by Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu.
Seoul has been seeking a consular agreement with Beijing to increase protection of South Korean citizens for a decade, but progress has been slow. According to the Foreign Ministry, talks kicked off in May 2002 and were convened on three more occasions -- in January 2007, January 2010, and December 2011 -- but the gap in opinions remains wide.
Seoul made consular agreements with the U.S. in 1963 and with Russia in 1992. A ministry official said, "Even if there's no bilateral consular agreement with China, there won't be any big problem if we stress the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, to which most countries including China and Korea are signatories."
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