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Assembly committee passes resolution against China's repatriation of defectors
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean parliamentary committee on Friday adopted a resolution demanding China stop repatriating North Korean defectors to their communist homeland.

   The resolution came as a group of 34 defectors caught in China are reportedly at risk of being deported to the North, where they are feared to face harsh persecution and even execution.

   The resolution submitted by Rep. Park Sun-young of the conservative minor Liberty Forward Party and signed by 29 lawmakers, passed through the National Assembly committee on foreign affairs and unification in its general meeting also attended by Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan.

   After staging a hunger strike for several days in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, a gaunt and weary-looking Park appealed to fellow lawmakers to approve the resolution to add pressure on China to stop sending refugees back to their homeland against their will.

Rep. Park Sung-young (L) of the Liberty Forward Party talks to Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (R) during a meeting of the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee held at the National Assembly on Feb. 24, 2012. (Yonhap)

The resolution condemns Beijing's forced repatriation of defectors and calls on China to follow the international law on refugees when handling North Koreans who have fled their impoverished homeland.

   It also demands that the parliament make efforts to help the stateless defectors and the South Korean government provide assistance when they enter the nation.

   More than 30 North Korean defectors were reportedly caught by Chinese authorities this month and have been awaiting repatriation to the North, according to multiple sources. Nine of them were believed to have already been repatriated over the weekend, informed sources said.

   Seoul has repeatedly called on Beijing not to deport North Korean defectors to their communist homeland, and has grown frustrated with Beijing's longstanding policy of turning a blind eye to its calls.

   On Wednesday, President Lee Myung-bak said in a news conference that China should follow international norms in handling North Korean defectors.

   China is the only major ally of North Korea and provides diplomatic support and economic assistance to the impoverished nation. Beijing usually repatriates defectors from North Korea, seeing them as economic migrants, not refugees.