More on the 22 “Boat People”
NK human rights groups and other advocates continue to speak their outrage at the Noh government for sending 22 North Koreans to their deaths. GNP Spokesperson Na Kyung Won had the following to say:
“The 22 North Koreans came out to the sea on unpowered rubber boats on Lunar New Year’s Day after breaking through the North Korean authorities’ surveillance cordon. But the National Intelligence Service announced that the North Koreans had no intention to defect to the South. The truth has not been found out, and there is much we do not understand from a commonsense point of view. After finding out the truth, our party will work out a response.” (via Chosun Ilbo)
While Hwang Jang Yop, father of the Juche Ideology, highest-level North Korean defector, and current head of the Committee for Democratization of North Korea, strengthens the argument that the North Koreans intended to defect:
“There are signs that North Koreans are now taking the West Sea as their new defection route in replacement of the North Korean-Chinese border,…To prevent this, the Kim Jong-il regime must have established a strategy so that the Roh Moo-hyun regime would turn North Korean boat people back to the North under the pretext of humanitarian repatriation, and the Roh regime must have followed this strategy in the latest incident.”
Despite their suspicions (and they had plenty of reason to be suspicious), South Korean authorities didn’t interrogate any of the group members individually. It seems there were enough red flags to indicate this wasn’t a run-of-the-mill lost-at-sea incident.
Instead, the ROK Navy turned the wayward “fishermen” over to North Korean authorities, at the North’s request. According to reports, the North made the request three hours after ROKN first spotted the 22. They were repatriated through Panmunjeom, according to the DailyNK.
However, theDailyNK logically notes that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about the status of the 22 without a thorough investigation:
It is too early to accept the allegation as fact since it has been neither confirmed by any government agency nor cross checked by another inside sources. Nonetheless, it is also difficult to dismiss the possibility of the allegation being true considering the fact that confidential information on North Korea is usually informed by word of mouth to the outside.
I can’t agree more. It’s always important in times when emotions are running high to take stock of the situation and make sure the facts of the case support the conclusion. Sadly, this wasn’t the route the Noh administration chose to pursue when it hastily decided to sent the 22 back.