Scores of human rights activists, including North Korean defectors, demonstrated Monday in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul to urge the Chinese government to stop the forced repatriation of North Korean defectors.
The protesters, including South Korean parliamentarian Park Jin, want Beijing to treat the defectors as refugees - a move that would protect the North Koreans from the threat of forced repatriation. He said, "Delegations including members of the National Assembly are raising their voice about the human rights issue."
"The issue of human rights of North Korean defectors is not just a matter for Korea and China. It is a global issue," said Park. "The international community should pay attention to this problem so that the North Korean defectors can find their freedom and come back with hope. The Korean government should do their best."
South Korean activist Do Hee-yun accused Beijing last week of forcibly returning 31 North Korean refugees who had crossed into China.
Do, who heads a Seoul-based human rights coalition, told the French news agency the asylum-seekers were secretly returned to the North during the past two weeks. He said they were likely to be severely punished for fleeing during the recent mourning period for the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
In Washington earlier this month, U.S. lawmaker Chris Smith, who heads the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, quoted new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as threatening to "exterminate three generations" of any family with a member caught defecting from North Korea during the 100-day mourning period.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged all countries in northeast Asia to cooperate in the protection of North Korean refugees who enter their territories.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.