June 07, 2013 12:34
Eighteen North Korean defectors who had been staying in a safe house belonging to the South Korean Embassy in Laos were moved to the embassy and the ambassador's residence on Tuesday.
The move follows the extraction of nine young North Koreans from Laos by North Korean agents on May 27.
The Foreign Ministry, which stands accused of doing nothing to save the nine youngsters, now says it is working to bring the 18 to South Korea as soon as possible.
A well-briefed diplomat here said the government here decided to move the 18 to a safer place and added there are also teenagers in this group.
This decision came after President Park Geun-hye on Monday stressed the importance of looking after North Korean defectors.
An activist supporting defectors in Laos said, "North Korean defectors in Laos are extremely apprehensive after learning about the repatriation of the youngsters. Those who were planning to come to Laos from China feel they can't and are wondering whether to try their luck via Burma instead."
Laos was until recently a relatively safe escape route for North Korean refugees.
Meanwhile, lawmaker Kim Jae-won of the ruling Saenuri Party arrived in the Lao capital of Vientiane with foreign ministry officials. He stays there until next Tuesday and is to meet with leaders of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and government officials to explain South Korea's position and seek their cooperation.
The Chosun Ilbo asked a man who was evidently a North Korean agent at Wattay International Airport in Vientiane how the repatriated teenagers were doing. He replied, "It is certain that the young comrades returned to the fatherland and are living happily in the arms of our general."
He sported a badge with pictures of both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, which is reportedly only worn by senior North Korean party officials.
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