The plight of North Korean refugees hiding in northeastern China is a humanitarian crisis that has received scant global notice. No one knows how many are in hiding or how many Beijing has deported back to North Korea in violation of its obligations under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Now, three official Chinese government documents--obtained privately and smuggled out of the country--show that the humanitarian crisis may be more dire than widely believed and the burden on China heavier. The documents were obtained by a U.S.-South Korean group that helps North Korean refugees navigate the underground railroad to safety out of China.
[One document states:] "To date, almost 400,000 North Korean illegal immigrants have entered China and large numbers continue to cross the border illegally." And, "As of the end of December 2004, 133,009 North Korean illegal immigrants have been deported."
[Another document reports:] "A report was received from the public of several corpses floating in the Yalu River. Officers from the Precinct immediately responded and organized personnel and 56 corpses had been recovered. … There were 36 males and 20 females, including seven children (five male and two female). After examination of the personal effects it was determined that the dead were citizens of the DPRK [North Korea]. Autopsies confirmed that all 56 had been shot to death. It is estimated that the dead were shot by Korean border guards while attempting to cross into China."
[Excerpt of Opinion written by Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page]