Activists Say China Complicit in Suffering of NK Refugees

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Sarah Page

from North Korea and activists are gathering
in Seoul, South Korea, this week to highlight human rights violations in
closed communist nation. But their attention is also turning to China, which they say is often complicit in North Koreans’ suffering.  

Non-governmental organziations (NGOs) estimate anywhere from 30,000 to 250,000 refugees
North Korea are living in China, either in border areas or deeper
inland. But China remains impervious to
refugees’ plight.

fears being
flooded by refugees if they show compassion,” said Suzanne Scholte,
co-chair of
the North Korea Freedom Coalition, which is hosting its seventh-annual North Korea Freedom Week in Seoul through Saturday. “But refugee flows aren’t going to
the [North Korean] regime. If that was going to happen, it would have
already during the famine, so their argument doesn’t hold

(Read “‘Pinpricks’ of Truth Making Way Into North Korea”)

refugees are Christians when they emerge from North Korea, but the whispered
advice among
refugees is to “head for a cross,” signaling a Chinese church that may
them, according to a February 2009

National Geographic report.

Since China
will not
allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees access to border
Chinese Christians work with Christian NGOs to provide an “underground
moving refugees via several routes to safety, most often in South

Ki-Won, director
of Christian NGO Durihana, admits that some of the refugees adopt
to win favor with their rescuers, but others retain and strengthen their
on arrival in South Korea.

insists that the
refugees are economic migrants and pays police a bounty to arrest and
them to North Korea. On arrival, North Korean officials pointedly
question the
refugees about contact with Chinese Christians or Christian NGOs. If any
is admitted, execution or imprisonment is likely, according to David
2005 report, “A Prison Without Bars.”

As one
refugee told
Hawke, “Having faith in God is an act of espionage.”

Still others choose to
to North
Korea with Bibles and other Christian resources at great risk to
themselves. For
example, officials in June 2009 publicly executed Ri Hyon-Ok, caught
distributing Bibles in Ryongchon, a city near the Chinese border, South
activists reported.

Scholte noted that North
Koreans don’t want to leave. “They leave because of Kim Jong-Il,” she
“Those [North Korean refugees] in South Korea want to go back and take
with them.”

Two U.S.
entered North Korea in recent months with the same goal in mind. Robert
Park, an
evangelical Christian missionary, crossed the border on Dec. 25 with a
calling for Kim Jong-Il to resign. Officials immediately arrested Park,
according to the regime’s Korean Central News Agency. He was later
sentenced to
eight years of hard labor but released in late February after making
what many
experts believe was a forced confession.

activist Aijalon
Mahli Gomes entered North Korea on Jan. 25, the same news agency
Officials sentenced Gomes to nine years of hard labor and fined him 70
new Won (
press time Gomes remained in detention.

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