SEOUL — ; A North Korean woman whose husband was forcibly repatriated by the Chinese authorities leaving her penniless and heavily pregnant in the border area of Yanbian has given birth to a baby girl in hospital, RFA's Korean service reports.
Park Eun-ok, 24, delivered her child in hospital June 29 — ; four days late — ; after fearing that she would have to give birth alone and without medical support because she had no money to pay hospital fees.
"It is a girl," a joyful Park told RFA reporter Jinseo Lee by telephone from hospital. "She is pretty."
Park has hiding in a small village since 1998, speaks no Chinese, and has no contact with Chinese people.
Following Park's initial interview with RFA, a listener contacted the South Korean aid organization, the Durihana Mission, with a donation of U.S.$120 to help Park, who was initially told to pay 2,000-3,000 yuan (U.S.$240-360) in hospital fees.
The money would be delivered to Park via South Korean Christian missionaries working in the area, a source at Durihana Mission said. Park's parents died in North Korea and she was separated from her sisters during the famine of 1998 and has no remaining family there.
She told RFA she was waiting for help in from a South Korean Christian mission. Park said she had still heard no news of her husband since his repatriation by the Chinese authorities.
"I don't know what happened to him. Perhaps he's in jail," she said in an earlier interview. "We were arrested because we tried to go to South Korea. These days, they do not execute, there's no shooting, but life is like death there," Park said, adding that the punishment for attempted defectors is far greater than for those North Koreans who had simply crossed the border to China to find food or work.
On June 3, the Durihana Mission said that the Chinese police had sent seven North Korean prisoners from Ansan prison camp in Tumen, China, back to North Korea on May 13. However, the South Korean government denied the report.
According to the Durihana Mission, seven North Korean prisoners who staged a hunger strike at a Chinese detention center demanding a permit to go to South Korea were sent back to North Korea around March 20 by Chinese police.
Whether Park's husband was among that group was unclear. South Korea has said it received assurances from Beijing that no such forcible repatriation took place.
North Korea has recently intensified a crackdown on defectors leaving through China, where a few hundred North Koreans have successfully sought political asylum in South Korean diplomatic missions and through other channels.
As many as 300,000 North Koreans are believed to live in hiding in China, where they frequently suffer abuse and exploitation by local law enforcement bodies.
Under a U.N. refugee convention, China is obliged not to force defectors back to North Korea, where they face punishment, torture, and humiliation, according to human rights groups. The punishment for defecting is three years in a labor camp and can lead to execution.