December 02, 2019 13:17
Eleven North Korean defectors on their arduous journey to South Korea face being sent back to China after being arrested in Vietnam.
One activist who aided the defectors' escapes said Sunday, "A car sent by the South Korean Foreign Ministry is said to have finally arrived at a border detention center in Vietnam late Saturday. The Foreign Ministry is not telling us anything, so we have no idea what talks are going on" between the two governments.
The defectors range in age from their 20s to 50s. Three are men and eight are women.
They were turned back at a border checkpoint last Thursday but then tried to sneak across again and were arrested. When Vietnamese authorities tried to hand all of them over to Chinese authorities on Friday, three of them apparently fainted, causing the deportation to be halted.
The activist said, "They could be handed over to China at any moment and are really scared, because the Vietnamese authorities became very hostile over the weekend."
Another source said, "It looks like Seoul was focused on trying to get North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to attend the special [South] Korea-ASEAN special summit in Busan and apparently paid no attention to the defectors."
Yet the leaders of South Korea and Vietnam met on the sidelines of the summit last Wednesday, just around the time the defectors were waiting to be granted entry to Vietnam.
Kang Chol-hwan, a North Korean defector and activist, said, "This problem would not even have happened if the government asked Vietnam to pay attention to the matter at the summit."
A Foreign Ministry staffer claimed the ministry is "trying to do its best" but declined to give details citing "relations" with Vietnam and the "safety" of the defectors.
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