Tuesday, August 29, 2006

North Korean Defectors Pose Growing Challenge

The slow exodus of North Koreans from their impoverished homeland is posing increasingly vexing diplomatic problems for China and South Korea, as they grapple with their Stalinist neighbor's decay.

Beijing sees the North Koreans as illegal economic migrants, subject to repatriation.

Seoul is worried about the flow, fearing the situation is jeopardizing its efforts to improve relations with Pyongyang.

Tim Peters, the founder of Helping Hands Korea, a nongovernmental organization that raises funds for clandestine operations to move refugees out of China, says … many South Koreans seemed to regard defectors as a costly social nuisance.

Peters commented that if in the future, the international community is remembered as doing more than South Korea has when it comes to helping refugees from the North, "that's going to be a horrible scar on the consciences of their [South Korean] grandchildren."

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