News / Asia

Park Calls Forced Return of North Koreans 'Truly Regrettable'

In this May 29, 2013 photo, South Korean protesters stage a rally urging China to stop repatriating North Korean defectors in front of the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea.
In this May 29, 2013 photo, South Korean protesters stage a rally urging China to stop repatriating North Korean defectors in front of the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea.
— South Korea's president is calling for Pyongyang to guarantee the safety of a group of young North Korean refugees who were forcibly repatriated with the apparent cooperation of Laos, China and North Korea.

The nine North Koreans, ranging in age between 15 and 23, had been in hiding in China after fleeing their country in 2011.

They were detained on May 10 in Laos, where they were making plans to get to South Korea as refugees.

The Laotian government sent the group back to China on May 27. They were flown to North Korea the following day.

The Laotian foreign ministry issued a statement Monday saying the North Koreans had entered Laos illegally and were accompanied by two South Koreans “who have committed human trafficking.” It confirmed handing the 11 Koreans to their respective embassies last week.

South Korea's President Park Geun-hye speaks to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, March 2013. (File photo).South Korea's President Park Geun-hye speaks to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, March 2013. (File photo).
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South Korea's President Park Geun-hye speaks to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, March 2013. (File photo).
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye speaks to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, March 2013. (File photo).
South Korean President Park Geun-hye expressed concern about the North Koreans, calling their forced return a “truly regrettable incident that should have never happened."

“All people have the right to enjoy freedom from the time they are born and that right should never be deprived or infringed upon,” Park said.

The United Nations has also expressed strong concerns about the fate of the North Koreans.

President Park said her government is not looking at this as merely a diplomatic issue with Laos, but a global human rights issue.

Her own foreign ministry is facing criticism that it was unable to help the North Koreans, despite being aware of their arrests in Laos.

Southeast Asia is frequently a transit route for North Koreans who have escaped their country by crossing into China and intending to resettle in South Korea.

South Korean government officials say the issue of forced repatriations by the Chinese will be raised when President Park makes a state visit to Beijing, later this month.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

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by: Jae Beom Kim
June 05, 2013 11:38 PM
Dear my fellow Americans and people of the world. This is the result of HUMAN TRAFFICKING by SOUTH Korea. Some religious organization and individuals are either paying or sponsoring sizable number of people who bring North Koreans into South Korea. They either use money, religious tactics to lure innocent North Koreans and this is the case that shows that their target is not just mostly women, but children!!!

They really don't care that most North Koreans are having a hard time in South Korea, and their suicide is rate is much higher than already worlds' #1 suicidal nation. Apparently South Korea government is not doing anything about it. ts time that international community investigate and act on this issue. And of course Suzanne Scholte of DFF and US politicians are behind this. International community should really do something about this.


by: Bill Ross from: Delray Beach, FL
June 04, 2013 9:15 AM
Communist countries have little concern for individuals.


by: AliOfTheAllies from: United States
June 03, 2013 8:19 AM
Upon reading that North Korean refugees had been forced to return to N. Korea, tears immediately began to well up in my eyes. With great sadness, I acknowledged the fact that by being sent back to North Korea, they were all most likely sent to meet their torturous and vastly inhumane deaths. Beaten, burnt, drowned, stripped of their dignity and of any and all human rights. I doubt they have eaten or drank anything since their return. I weep for those 9 innocents who simply wished to live humanly but were instead, forced to return to where evil ebbs and flows through the land.

In Response

by: LMB from: Ocala, Fl
June 04, 2013 3:27 AM
I will not fully understand why Life as it is on Earth today is as it wasn't meant to be....this is not the way the Lord wanted Life to be but Life to be great is what the Lord wanted. It is North Korea that should make Americans happy that they are an "AMERICAN" and from the most Beautiful Country in the World > AMERICA!

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