By Washington Correspondent Eui-jui Cho
October 21, 2020
On the 20th, North Korean human rights activist Suzanne Scholte, President of Defense Forum Foundation, sent an open letter to the Chosun Ilbo suggesting that President Moon must save North Korean defectors detained in China in the unique circumstance created by COVID-19.
President Scholte suggests, “Due to COVID-19, North Korea has been refusing to receive repatriation of North Korean defectors from China. Therefore, we have this golden opportunity to rescue the lives of North Korean defectors detained in China. President Moon must request Premier Xi to free the North Korean defectors.” President Scholte has been striving to ameliorate human rights violations in North Korea and support North Korean defectors. In recognition of her work, she received Seoul Peace Prize in 2008. Because of her work, U.S. Congress held the very first hearing over North Korean political prison camp. Also, since 2006, she has been organizing North Korea Freedom Week to apprise the international community of human rights violations in North Korea.
Below is her open letter to President Moon:
Dear Mr. President:
I am appealing to you on a most urgent matter: the North Korean men, women and children currently detained in China’s detention centers.
The Republic of Korea has earned great admiration and respect worldwide for the tremendous efforts it has carried out to successfully resettle over 33,000 refugees who fled North Korea over the past few decades. As you know, China has continued to violate its international treaty obligations and forcefully repatriate North Koreans back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to face certain torture, certain imprisonment and even execution.
However, today, because of COVID 19, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has refused China’s request to forcefully repatriate these refugees back to North Korea, which offers a tremendous opportunity for you to save their lives. Most of these refugees were trying to reach their families in the Republic of Korea, a crime which makes them subject to execution if forced back to North Korea. Some of these refugees have become Christians, which means they are also subjected to immediate execution. Among them are young children.
This current situation gives you a tremendous opportunity to save the lives of hundreds of men, women and children currently in detention centers in the People’s Republic of China by requesting that Xi show humanitarian compassion and allow them safe passage to the Republic of Korea.
Because of similar action taken on behalf of your own family, you had the great opportunity to be able to choose your own path and thrive in the Republic of Korea to be elected to its most important political office, President. Now, you are the person with the most authority in the world to act to protect the lives of these refugees and make it possible for them to have the same opportunities. Please consider the sincerity of this appeal to act on their behalf.
Seoul Peace Prize Laureate