Friday, October 27, 2006

LiNK email

One of the benefits of being with LiNK is getting the LiNK newsletter and LiNK-related emails (unfortunately, I have to fish them out of the trash because the subject line doesn't contain the magic words).

Since I don't do very much for LiNK despite having invited myself to be a member (they say anyone can join), the very least I can do is involve myself with some consciousness-raising. Not that the Koreablogosphere needs much help in this area: expat bloggers are pretty good about making themselves aware of what's happening up north, and about discussing the problem openly. But it's more than Koreabloggers who read this humble blog, and if I can get others in, say, the States or Europe or Africa to pay attention, to care, and to speak out on this issue, then so much the better. If a few of my regular Stateside and European readers could take up the battle flag and spread the word among their own readership, I'd appreciate that.

Here's the letter I just received:


The Plight of North Koreans in China and Beyond

Seoul/Brussels, 26 October 2006: The international community needs to do more to help thousands of desperate North Koreans who are fleeing their country or it may find the nuclear crisis with Pyongyang even more difficult to resolve.

Perilous Journeys: The Plight of North Koreans in China and Beyond,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the hidden, often shifting networks through which the border crossers seek better lives in China and third countries. The number is growing, and they are a source of tension between the two Koreas, but also between China and its neighbours and South Korea and the U.S.

China and South Korea have held back, even during the recent Security Council debate over post-test sanctions, from applying as much pressure as they might to persuade Pyongyang to reverse its dangerous nuclear policy, in part because they fear that the steady stream of North Koreans flowing into China and beyond would become a torrent if the North's economy were to collapse under the weight of tough measures.

"Clearly, the primary responsibility for the mounting humanitarian tragedy lies with North Korea but the international community has failed to find an effective means of dealing with the situation", says Peter Beck, Crisis Group's North East Asia Project Director.

Scores of thousands of North Koreans are risking their lives trying to escape their country's hardships in search of a better life. Meanwhile, due to natural and man-made disasters, the perfect storm may be brewing for a return to famine in the North. Though generally impervious to outside advice, Pyongyang should at least explore small steps of travel liberalisation. Some measures could be taken relatively easily without giving its leadership cause to fear for the survival of the regime.

Otherwise, China is the key to improving the situation. It should shift focus from keeping North Koreans out to protecting them once they have entered. Even if China does not allow North Koreans to seek asylum officially on its territory, it should stop forcible repatriation. At least until Beijing does so, neighbouring countries, who are all too eager to pass the buck, should not turn North Koreans crossing from China back to Chinese authorities, but instead contact either South Korea or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Having been most vocal about North Korean human rights, the U.S. and the EU member states should recognise and accept many more of these people for resettlement. South Korea should also play a more active (but understandably quiet) role to help North Korean border crossers trapped in China and beyond. But China is the key country.

"There needs to be a more sustained international engagement with Beijing on this issue", says Robert Templer, Crisis Group's Asia Program Director. "It should see how dealing with it better, and in cooperation with other countries, is really in its own interests".

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) 1 202 785 1601
To contact Crisis Group media please click here
*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website:

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering over 50 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.


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