Protestors held a rally in front of China’s embassy in Seoul Tuesday to plead with the Chinese government not to repatriate seven North Korean defectors who were arrested last week in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, and now face forcible repatriation.
The protest group included family members of the seven, and they delivered a letter to the embassy requesting an “emergency rescue” of the defectors.
Among the defectors are a nine-year-old girl surnamed Choi and her 32-year-old uncle, surnamed Kang.
At the rally, Choi’s mother said in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service that she had recent contact with her daughter prior to the group’s arrest.
“I spoke to my daughter just a day before the arrest and promised to meet her soon,” she said. At the rally, she hoped to appeal to the public to help her see her daughter again.
“If I had imagined this would happen, I would have told her that I love her. I didn’t even get to say that. I never thought that something like this would happen to me,” she said.
Even if the defectors are criminals in the eyes of North Korea, South Korea has a legal responsibility to help defectors to the fullest extent it can.
“Since the seven defectors are citizens of South Korea under the Constitution, the South Korean government should make all possible efforts to prevent their forced repatriation and rescue them,” said Kim Tae-Hoon, a representative of the Seoul-based Lawyers for Human Rights and Unification of Korea.
Also at the rally was Thae Yong-ho, the former deputy ambassador of North Korea to the United Kingdom who famously defected with his family to South Korea in 2016.
“As I know how parents feel, I’m here to join them in front of the Chinese Embassy and fight together,” said Thae, who in the past has said that the future of his children was a factor in his family’s decision to defect.
“A miracle can happen when we all join our hearts together with one voice,” he said.
More than 30,000 North Koreans have made their way to South Korea in recent decades, including several high-ranking officials.
Reported by Seungwook Hong for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.