[NPR] Concerns are raised that China may return defectors back to North Korea

10 Apr 2023

On April 7th, NKDB's Chief Director, Dr. Yeosang Yoon, appeared in an NPR article about growing concern over the fate of North Korean escapees detained in China, as they could soon be repatriated to North Korea and face harsh punishment.

Despite international concerns, China is unlikely to allow defectors to stay or travel elsewhere. If China were to help North Korean defectors to get to South Korea, they could trigger a wave of defections that could destabilize the North Korean regime. So says Yoon Yeo-sang, chief director of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, a Seoul-based civic group. He notes that by using surveillance technology, video cameras and facial recognition software, China has already been able to drastically reduce the number of North Korean defectors entering the country.

"Before COVID, we had at least 1,000 defectors arriving in South Korea annually. But last year, we only had 60."

And he says those numbers may not rebound, even after North Korea lifts COVID controls. Yoon estimates that the number of North Korean defectors in China has dwindled in recent decades from around 100,000 to just 10,000, 90% of whom are now women.

"It's not that North Koreans don't have the will to escape their country. It's because of their surveillance technology. Defection has become much harder. And, in that sense, China has become the winner."

You can read the full article on NPR website by clicking HERE.