The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) is deeply concerned about the first deportation of North Koreans by South Korea since the 1953 Korean War Armistice. The South Korean government on Thursday deported two North Korean escapees to North Korea, a regime that has been denounced by the United Nations as having committed systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights and crimes against humanity. On the rare occasions in which a North Korean in South Korea asked to be repatriated, Seoul has complied. But this is the first time it has sent North Koreans back against their will. In doing so, South Korea has undermined its national Constitution, which recognizes all North Koreans as citizens of South Korea, granting them the right to live in the South and be protected by its legal system. “As we know from decades of research into how North Korea treats its citizens, there is no doubt that the two deportees have been returned to a place where they face no due process, harsh punishment, torture, and almost-certain execution,” says Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).
After their boat was seized by the South Korean navy on Saturday, the two fishermen reportedly requested resettlement in South Korea. Following an investigation that lasted only three days, South Korea sent the two back to North Korea, saying that that its investigators had determined that the men had killed 16 of their crew mates prior to escaping. Ministry of Unification spokesman Lee Sang-min stated that the two fishermen were “heinous criminals” who did not deserve recognition as refugees under applicable international law. “The claim that the two escapees killed 16 crew mates, is bizarre,” says Scarlatoiu. Moreover, the North Koreans were on South Korean soil and deserved the protection of South Korea’s legal system.
“The deportation of the two North Korean fishermen creates serious moral, ethical, and legal concerns that friends of Korea should call attention to,” says Scarlatoiu. He further adds: “The result of a cursory investigation, this deportation is contrary to obligations assumed by South Korea under human rights instruments including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director
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