South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak has instructed officials to look into setting up regional refugee camps for the growing number of North Koreans fleeing the Stalinist nation, a ruling party lawmaker said Tuesday. Lee ordered his government to quickly review ideas for setting up refugee camps — at least in Thailand. Lee also instructed officials to consult with Mongolia and Russia on creating refugee zones there.
His orders mark a departure from South Korea's previous two presidents, both liberals, who abstained from publicly raising the issue of North Korean defectors for fear of angering their northern communist neighbor as Seoul sought reconciliation with Pyongyang.
President Lee Myung-bak also recently asked his Chinese counterpart to cooperate on ensuring that defectors aren't forced to return to the impoverished nation.
South Korean activist, the Rev. Chun Ki-won, praised Lee's initiative but was skeptical that the countries would agree to the proposal. South Korean activists pushed to set up a refugee camp in Mongolia in 2004 but the project collapsed at last stage due to differences with Mongolia.
[International Herald Tribune]