Nine orphaned North Korean defectors (ages 14 to 23) risked their lives to fight for their human rights. Their willpower and hope overpowered their fear. From North Korea to China, and China to Laos, they pushed on toward freedom – they were almost there.
However, all hope vanished on Friday, May 10, 2013.
The nine North Korean youth defectors, with the help of two South Koreans, were en route to South Korea when authorities in Muang Xay, Laos, captured them and sent them to the Immigration Detention Center in Bientiane, Laos. One of the South Korean leaders pleaded the South Korean embassy to provide the nine North Korean refugees with necessary protection, but the South Korean embassy did not take any emergency actions to help them. Instead, the South Korean embassy told the refugees to “wait.” For seventeen days, neither the South Korean embassy nor its embassy in Laos visited or interviewed the young defectors while a North Korean diplomat, claiming to be a South Korean diplomat, visited the refugees, twice.
On May 27th, 2013, the North Korean diplomat succeeded in taking the nine North Korean youth defectors back to China.
The refugees were on the brink of being repatriated back to North Korea, where they will be punished - tortured and abused at political prison camps, and possibly face the risk of execution.
On Wednesday, May 29th, 2013, NKHR members along with other supporters, gathered in front of the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appeal to the South Korean government to take action and stop the enforced repatriation of these young defectors. NKHR members and other supporters let their voices be heard on the streets of Seoul; “The South Korean government must take responsibility for its negligence and failure to protect the young North Korean refugees in Laos.”
Ultimately, the nine North Korean youth defectors were deported back to North Korea. Even though the Laotian government knew the fatal fate of these refugees, it sent them back to North Korea. The Laotian government did not stand by its duty as a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. The Laotian government’s actions were basically a violation of human rights.
On Friday, May 31st, 2013, NKHR held another street protest/press conference at the Embassy of Laos in South Korea to demonstrate against the Laotian government’s inhuman practice and to urge the Laotian government never to send refugees back to North Korea again.
We need to keep in mind that Laos is one of the main routes for North Korean refugees to come to South Korea.
The fight isn't over yet.
We are talking about nine young lives – help us save these lives. Continue to support and pray for the nine young North Korean defectors; continue to support other future refugees; and continue to voice your opinion on the issue of human rights in North Korea.
We are a group of volunteers fundraising for NKHR (Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights) to rescue