The chief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, visited Seoul to discuss the North Korean defector problem with the South Korean government.
Lubbers, who served as prime minister of the Netherlands for 12 years, recalled that when he first took up his post at the UNHCR in January 2001, he was shocked that China forcefully repatriated North Korean refugees in China back to North Korea. Lubbers said that he recently succeeded in getting the Chinese authorities to promise not to.
Lubbers called North Korea a "nation that mass produces refugees," and added that the increasing number of defectors who risk their lives to cross borders indicates that the economic situation in the North is worsening. He called North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's regime dishonorable to be imposing such harsh punishments on those who leave the country in search for food.