50 N. Korean orphans defected to China in late Feb.: lawmaker

March 8, 2012 11:39 am 

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, March 8 — A South Korean opposition lawmaker revealed on Thursday that a group of 50 North Korean orphans defected from their impoverished homeland late last month, while it is not known whether they have been caught by Chinese authorities.

Rep. Park Sun-young of the conservative minor Liberty Forward Party said 50 children fled from an orphanage in the northern Yanggang Province in late February, adding she has been holding the information acquired from sources in China due to their safety.

"Fortunately, I haven't heard that they were caught (by Chinese authorities)," Park told Yonhap by phone.

Park, an avid North Korea rights advocate, said some 30 children fled the same orphanage shortly after North Korea's previous leader Kim Jong-il died of a sudden heart disease on Dec. 17 last year.

Among the defectors, Park noted, 20 were caught near the border and severely beaten by North Korean authorities, while the rest of them have not yet returned to the North.

The 56-year-old also claimed that an additional 14 North Koreans were reportedly arrested in China, raising the total number of defectors facing repatriation to their homeland to at least 48.

The journalist-turned-lawmaker, who collapsed last week after 11 days of a hunger strike in front of the Chinese embassy, denounced liberal parties' inaction for the human rights issues in the communist state.

"Although (the liberal parties) always talk about human rights, they are showing an anachronistic attitude by keeping silent over rights of North Korean defectors," said Park, who is now under treatment in a Seoul hospital for dehydration and malnutrition. "Keeping silence over North Korean defectors' rights is not so much different from inhumane actions such as torturing and killing (them)."

Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of North Koreans are believed to be living in hiding in China after fleeing their communist homeland, hoping to settle in South Korea. China regards them as economic migrants, not as refugees, and repatriates them when caught. (PNA/Yonhap)



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