DANIELA GUEVARA WRITES – In an unusual case this month, South Korea has deported two North Koreans back to their home country. The ruling came after discovering that the two North Korean defectors had killed 16 fishermen on the boat they were working on as fishermen.
The deportations of the two men were the first South Korea has carried out on North Koreans seeking asylum since the end of the Korean war in the early 1950’s. South Korean blanket policy has been to accept North Koreans who wish to resettle in the South in order to escape political oppression and poverty.
The two North Korean men, both in their 20s, were captured on their boat south of the eastern sea border earlier this month. According to the Yonhap news agency, the two confessed that they and another man killed the captain of the ship due to his “harsh treatment” while fishing in waters near Russia. They then continued to kill crew members aboard to cover up their actions and disposed of the bodies by throwing them overboard. The three suspects initially returned to the North, but when one was captured by local police at the port the other two decided to flee on their boat to the South.
The two men were deported to the North via Panmunjom on November 7, after informing Pyongyang of the plan. Ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min told reporters: “If they had been incorporated into our society, it was judged they would pose a threat to the lives and safety of the people”.
Several South Korean media outlets are questioning why the South Korean government made the decision to deport the two men so quickly and whether it should have allowed North Koreans to go through the South Korean judicial process first.
About 32,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since the end of the Korean War, many through China, over the past two decades. North Korean defectors are highly controversial in that the North often falsely claims its citizens are being held captive and against their will in the South. Due to the seriousness of this case, the deported men are likely to receive heavy punishment in North Korea, including possible execution. Surely the South Koran authorities assumed as much in deporting the two North Korean fishermen.