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The Peninsula

Quiet over the Deportation of North Koreans

Published November 19, 2019
Author: Korea View

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • At the start of the month, two men escaped from North Korea after allegedly killing sixteen crew members aboard their fishing boat.
  • Just days after their arrival in South Korea, they were repatriated to the North because of the crimes they committed. This was the first time a North Korean had been deported since the end of the Korean War.
  • In response, a group of eighteen human rights organizations denounced the decision and accused President Moon of abandoning human rights issues to win favor with Kim Jong-Un.

Implications: Aside from the human rights groups, there has been limited public outcry against the deportation – potentially reflecting a growing domestic view that North Korea is a distinct and separate country from South Korea. The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea argued that the expulsion is a violation of South Korea’s constitution, which views all Koreans on the peninsula as citizens of South Korea (with rights to due process in South Korea). Nevertheless, the government has stood by its decision, saying that the men’s crimes prevented them from being categorized as refugees. And a professor at Chung-Ang University acknowledged that other foreigners would be sent back to their country if they committed a crime, so the same should be done for North Korea. These positions suggest that North Korea is increasingly viewed as a sovereign country by South Koreans.

Context: The limited criticism in South Korea to the deportation of the North Korean men cannot be attributed to political apathy. South Koreans have congregated time and time again to protest perceived injustices. In the past weeks, South Koreans have turned out to support both sides of the Hong Kong protests. However, no major demonstrations were held over the extradition.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Soojin Hwang, Hyoshin Kim, and Rachel Kirsch.

Photo from NVictor’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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