SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) -- Human rights groups in Seoul strongly denounced the Lao government Friday for handing over nine North Korean defectors to their totalitarian homeland despite fears they could face persecution there.
The defectors, after being detained for three weeks by Lao immigration authorities, were flown back to North Korea on Tuesday despite Seoul's repeated requests not to repatriate them. They had fled their home country to Laos via China in early May, with the aim of eventually reaching in South Korea.
"The Lao government, knowing that deported refugees suffer severe punishment in the North, still sent the nine defectors back to the country," the activist groups said in a press conference held in front of the Lao Embassy in central Seoul.
"The decision clearly goes against international humanitarian agreements, including the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees."
Echoing growing concerns following the incident that the Southeast Asian country, a major transit point for North Korean defectors, might continue to repatriate other similar refugees, the human rights activists urged the Lao government not to repeat the same decision in the future.
Lao government officials, in response to South Korea's regret over the repatriation, said Thursday that "the domestic law mandates all illegal immigrants, regardless of their origin, be sent back to their home country," according to South Korean Ambassador Lee Jeong-kwan in Laos.
Diplomatic sources said that unlike previous cases where the Lao government responded favorably to South Korea's calls regarding North Korean refugees, it came under heavy pressure from Pyongyang this time regarding the nine North Koreans, aged between 15 and 23.
- Kaesong normalization iffy amid frayed inter-Korean ties
- Aid to N. Korea on ice amid inter-Korean tensions
- Seoul's proposed DMZ peace park faces tough road ahead
- S. Korea-U.S. summit to push N. Korea to review policy options
- S. Korea, U.S. agree to stronger deterrence against N. Korea
- S. Korea-U.S. summit meeting unlikely to draw out N. Korea: analysts
- Future of Kaesong industrial complex in doubt over escalating tensions
- N. Korea in tug of war over dialogue terms with S. Korea, U.S.
- Park, Obama face crucial test on chemistry amid N.K. headache
- (News Focus) N. Korea's hacking capabilities advance
- N. Korea's hacking capabilities advance
- (News Focus) N. Korea ratchets up tension by restricting Kaesong operations
- N. Korea cautious in choosing timing for any attack: U.S. experts
- N. Korea fueling tensions to seek diplomatic solution: sources
- N. Korea's state-sponsored hackers emerge as global threat
- Three years after naval vessel sinking, N. Korea poses greater security threat
- N.K. leader's front-line inspections fuel military clash concerns
- N. Korea threatens war in defiance of U.N. resolution
- 'Strongest sanctions' on NK, output of artful U.N. diplomacy
- China holds key to implementing U.N. sanctions against N. Korea
- N. Korea again resorts to brinkmanship to put pressure on U.S.
- U.S. aim of denuclearizing N. Korea in question
- Park vows 'trust-building' with N. Korea despite nuke brink
- Park faces key tasks on relations with N. Korea, regional powers
- All eyes on China for tougher sanctions against nuclear N. Korea
- Nuke test stirs debate on how to handle N. Korea's WMD program
- Obama's N. Korea policy put to crucial test again
- (NK N-test) N. Korea's nuke test jeopardizing inter-Korean relations
- Nuke test aims to solidify Kim's control, take upper hand in int'l arena
- N. Korea's nuke test presents major security challenge for Park, Obama
- N. Korea's nuke test feared to foil Park's overture of engagement: experts
- N. Korea's nuclear tension overshadows new gov't in Seoul
- N. Korea ramps up threat of another nuclear test
- U.N. action on N. Korea late yet meaningful: official
- In second term, Obama faces tough issues with Seoul
- Inter-Korean relations effectively severed under Lee administration
Home > NorthKorea