Monday, December 22, 2008

19 North Korean Defectors to be Tried in Burma

A number of months or years ago I happened to be in the South Korean embassy here in Bangkok when I saw a group of rather starved looking people in oversized clothes. I asked a few questions and it turns out that they were from North Korea. That is where I first learned about the very long and dangerous trip that these people make to escape the repressive North Korean regime. These people in particular had traveled from North Korea in China and from China into Burma and then to Thailand. From Thailand they apply for a visa to South Korea in hopes of living there. Necessary to note that it is impossible to cross between the North/South Korean border.

Now we have a case of 19 North Koreans captured by the junta in Burma. Burma is going to try them with illegally entering the country. Wouldn't surprise me if they eventually ship them back to North Korea. Repressive nations have to stick together, after all.

The real wild card continues to be China. China now allows North Korean defectors to stay in China and work like slaves with food (as opposed to working as slaves without food in their homeland). China is, slowly moving in a direction of respecting human rights at home and abroad. Part of it is that China is very concerned about her image abroad.

So, maybe someone in China can pick up a phone and ask the Burmese junta what they really plan to do with the defectors. Perhaps China could hang on to them for a while, unless South Korea wants to intercede on their behalf.

Certainly it is clear why these people would want to live in Korea (South), and I hope they make it there.

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