North Korean refugees in China are entirely vulnerable in China.
This fact was tragically underscored in an episode that involved the precarious fate in China of two teenaged daughters of a former military officer in the North Korean army. When the entire family of four was arrested in China and repatriated to North Korea, the father was immediately executed as a traitor without trial.
The mother was sent to a labor camp, and the two daughters (ages 14 and 17) were eventually released. The two teens showed remarkable resourcefulness by crossing to China again.
[Through the Underground Railroad network] we were able to find a shelter for the girls, however the younger of the two daughters wandered away from the safe house and was picked up by Chinese police & repatriated. The older sister is safe for now, but runs the risk of being trapped into human trafficking if not rescued soon.
I’d had high hopes that my own government (U.S.) would lend assistance, but those hopes were dashed, so options are being explored to move her along the Underground Railroad to safety.
--Tim Peters, Helping Hands Korea [Excerpts of a speech to Joint Session of NGOs and Lawmakers]