Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Intervention on the Long Road to Freedom

[In an attempt to rescue 10 North Korean refugees apprehended in Laos], human rights groups sought urgent intervention from the United Nations, as well as from the U.S. and South Korean governments. When all efforts failed, a representative of Helping Hands Korea paid a ransom of US$500 per head for eight of the refugees; another activist ransomed the other two.

After almost two weeks of negotiation, the Lao government allowed South Korean embassy staff to collect the refugees.

Most refugees in China are not as fortunate. China has a mutual repatriation agreement with North Korea.

Multiple interviews with the refugees … show clear evidence of severe and widespread human rights abuses. Refugees report brainwashing tactics; tight control of movement; harsh labor requirements; imprisonment of up to three generations of a family for minor infractions; and severe shortages of food, medical care and other basic necessities.

In her memoir, Eyes of the Tailless Animals, former prisoner Soon Ok Lee described forced labor, torture, harassment and forced abortions in one of North Korea’s notorious labor camps. She also said Christians were singled out for particular punishment – an observation which led Soon to adopt Christianity following her unprecedented release from the labor camp.

[Excerpt of article in Compass Direct]

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