North Korea Executes 15 Refugees
Only a week after the concert of the New York Philharmonic, North Korea again showed its true face on Wednesday by publicliy executing 15 of its citizens attempting to escape its borders.
3/6/08 North Korea (TIME) North Korea earlier this week publicly executed 15 of its citizens for trying to flee the country by crossing the Tumen River on the border with China, a South Korean human rights organization reported on Wednesday.
The North Korean government in the past has executed captured refugees, but it does so inconsistently. Pyongyang sends some for extended stays in the country’s horrific prisons. Aid groups and people active in the so-called underground railroad, which tries to move refugees into China and eventually to safety in Seoul, say the executions this week were probably meant to deter those fleeing because food is scarce.
Diplomats also believe that China has recently been pressuring North Korea to stem the flow of refugees. “Beijing wanted to nip in the bud, before the Olympics, any chance that the number of refugees would turn into a flood this year,” says one diplomat who has followed the issue.
Publicly, Beijing insists that all North Korean refugees are “economic migrants” who have no right under international law to enter China illegally. International human rights groups disagree, and say Beijing, as a signatory to the United Nation’s protocol on refugees, is obliged to give them safe harbor.