[NK News] 34 North Korean defectors reach South in first quarter as COVID obstacles remain

8 May 2023

NK News has brought attention to the significantly diminished number of North Korean escapees in comparison to the pre-COVID period and has discussed the hardships experienced by North Korean residents attempting defection. In relation to this, an interview was conducted with Hanna Song, Director of International Cooperation of NKDB. The content of the interview is as follows:

Hanna Song, a director at the Seoul-based Database Center for North Korean Human Rights, warned that the latest numbers show pandemic restrictions continue to impact North Koreans ability to escape the country. 

“The low number of North Korean escapees entering South Korea are not only representative of North Korea’s pandemic restrictions, but also of the circumstances in China, Russia or Southeast Asia where many North Koreans must go through to come to South Korea,” Song told NK News. 

“The continued low numbers show that even those who have managed to escape from the DPRK have difficulty reaching safety in China,” she added. “Beijing’s continued lack of recognition of North Korean escapees is a major contributor to the human rights violations that North Koreans endure.”

South Korean media reported earlier this year that a group of North Koreans trying to defect with the help of ROK missionary groups were arrested in China. The U.N. special envoy for North Korean human rights also recently expressed concern about North Koreans facing forced repatriation, inquiring about a woman reportedly suffering from health problems in Chinese custody.

And as Pyongyang maintains its COVID controls for a fourth consecutive year, Song expressed skepticism that the DPRK will ease restrictions even after the pandemic.

“With Pyongyang’s continued enactment of new laws that prohibit North Koreans from having access to foreign and South Korean content, Kim Jong Un will continue [the] tight border controls to prevent any influence going in or North Koreans going out,” she told NK News.

You can read the full article on NK News website by clicking HERE

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