[NPR] North Korean defectors may face deportation by China as COVID border controls ease

8 May 2023

NPR has once again drawn attention to the potential resurgence of forced repatriation of North Korean escapees in China, prompted by the recent relaxation of border restrictions enacted by the Chinese government. Citing an interview with Chief Director Yoon Yeosang from NKDB, the following insights are presented: 

Yoon Yeo-sang, chief director of the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, a Seoul-based civic group, notes that even without the pandemic-related border restrictions, China has already been able to drastically reduce the number of North Korean defectors entering the country. 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 women. And the number eventually reaching South Korea has plummeted as well.

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

China has kept the numbers down by using surveillance technology — video cameras and facial recognition software.

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

Yoon says what motivates him to do his work is this:

"Even though the [Korean] peninsula is divided, we have lived together for thousands of years," he says. "So we see them as the people we will again live together with some day, not as foreigners or refugees."

You can read the full article on The Korea JoongAng Daily website by clicking  HERE

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