[Press Release][Press Release] NKDB Center for Human Rights Legal Support Files Complaint Regarding Forced Repatriation

12 Jul 2022
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'NKDB Center for Human Rights Legal Support' Files Complaint 

Regarding the Forced Repatriation of North Korean Fishermen


  • Former National Security Adviser, Chung Eui-yong, seven officials involved in the decision to forcibly repatriate two North Korean escapees, and additional unnamed individuals involved in carrying out the repatriation, have been accused as perpetrators of human rights violations
  • Case demonstrates the need to come up with measures and legal procedures to prevent the recurrence of forced repatriation of North Korean escapees

Amid the ongoing investigation into North Korea's killing of a South Korean fisheries official on the West Sea, the incident of the forced repatriation of two North Korean fishermen, which has been full of speculation and suspicion, is also being re-examined.


The NKDB Center for Human Rights Legal Support, in pursuit of discovering the truth regarding the forced repatriation of the two North Korean fishermen and holding the responsible parties to account, will file a complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office against the government officials involved and hold a press conference on July 12 at 10:30 a.m. The former national security adviser Chung Eui-yong and seven officials who made the decision to forcibly repatriate the two North Korean escapees, along with unnamed individuals involved in enforcing the repatriation, are accused of various charges including abuse of authority, dereliction of duty, illegal arrest and confinement, enabling criminal escape, and destruction of evidence.


The incident of forced repatriation of the North Korean fishermen is a case in which the Moon Jae-in administration forcibly repatriated two North Korean fishermen expressing their intention to defect to South Korea on November 2, 2019, on suspicion of murdering their colleagues. The incident came to light when a National Assembly press photographer caught a photo of the phone of Kim You-geun, former first deputy director of the Blue House National Security Office, being briefed by a staff officer at the Panmunjom Unit (Joint Security Area) via text message at the time of the repatriation on November 7, 2019.


Yoon Seung-hyun, the Director of NKDB Center for Human Rights Legal Support, explained that “the North Korean fishermen expressed their intention to defect. Nevertheless, the decision to repatriate was made against their will in just five days without a proper investigation. We define not just those who made the decision to unlawfully and forcibly repatriate them, but also the ones who ordered and were briefed on the enforcement of the illegal forced repatriation as well as the individuals who carried it out or cooperated with it on the spot, as perpetrators of human rights violations. They will be accused of abuse of authority, dereliction of duty, illegal arrest and confinement, enabling criminal escape, and destruction of evidence, depending on the degree of their involvement.”


“At the time, the Moon administration stated that the main reason for their repatriation was that the fishermen were felons who had murdered 16 fellow fishermen while in North Korea. However, they are South Korean citizens according to the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, and repatriating the individuals who came under the effective rule of South Korean law and expressed their intention to defect infringes upon South Korean sovereignty by renouncing the country's jurisdiction and violates human rights,” said Director Yoon.


“It is suspicious that the investigation into a major case involving criminals that killed 16 people was hastily concluded in just five days. Above all, there had been no precedent for forced repatriation to North Korea for such a reason, and various speculation and suspicions are circulating in the background. The dominant view is that the Moon administration abandoned the human rights of these escapees to invite Kim Jong Un to the ASEAN-ROK special summit in Busan at the time,” Yoon stressed. He also added that, “this is another example of the Moon Jae-in administration's double standard, which trampled on the human rights of North Korean escapees while emphasizing human rights as a reason for pressing ahead with prosecution reform.”


Meanwhile, the NKDB Center for Human Rights Legal Support will host a joint seminar to conduct a legal study on the incident of the forced repatriation of the North Korean fishermen and work on measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. The seminar will be co-hosted by the People Power Party (PPP)'s Policy Committee (chaired by Rep. Sung Il-jong), Human Rights Committee (chaired by Rep. Yoo Sang-bum), and International Committee (chaired by Rep. Tae Yong-ho), and will be held in Small Conference Room #2 of the National Assembly Members' Office Building on July 15th at 10:30am KST.


Yoon Yeosang, the Chief Director of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB), and Kim Woong Ki, President of the Institute for Transitional Justice and Integration will give a presentation at the seminar. Rep. Tae Yong-ho of the People Power Party will chair the panel discussion, joined by Jang Se-yul, President of the National Association of North Korean Defectors, Je Sung-ho, professor at Chung-Ang University Law School, and Choi Jin-nyung, managing partner at the law firm CK, as panelists.


The NKDB Center for Human Rights Legal Support, the organization filing this accusation, was established in October 2021 by legal experts to provide legal support toward the relief of North Korean human rights victims and the restoration of their dignity based on the records of the privately-operated North Korean Human Rights Archives, which contains and preserves over 130,000 files of cases, victims, perpetrators, and witnesses of North Korean human rights violations. The review board members consist of a group of leading experts on North Korean human rights including: Yoon Seung-hyun, the Center's Director; Lee Young-hyun, the first North Korean escapee in South Korea to be admitted to the bar; public interest lawyers with former careers as judges or public prosecutors; the former president of the Korean Bar Association; law school professors; and North Korean escapees.


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