Torture and Police Brutality in a Real Police State

What happened to nine North Korean teenagers who were forced back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in May 2013 by the Laotian and Chinese governments

Although North Korean defectors are recognized internationally as refugees, China routinely violates its obligations to respect the principle of non-refoulement under international refugee and human rights law and sends North Koreans back to certain imprisonment and probable death. So in April of 2013, MJ, his wife, and the nine teens began a journey from China to North Korea. After they crossed the Chinese/Laotian border they were arrested by the Laotian authorities and instead of accommodating their safe passage to South Korea, the Laotian government collaborated with the Chinese government to send the teens back to China from which they were returned to North Korea.

 

The police beat them with clubs and metal brushes. Some of the teenagers were beaten so badly that their heads were covered with bald spots because the hair would no longer grow back from the trauma.-“MJ” a missionary who with his wife sheltered North Korean orphans

On December 10, 2014, Human Rights Day, the American media was salivating over the Senate Democrats’ report about enhanced interrogation of terrorists, raging over the U.S. government’s violation of jihadists’ human rights. At the same time, condemnation of America’s police forces continued to spread throughout the country, leading to well-orchestrated protests this past weekend. Meanwhile, a Capitol Hill press conference sought to open the eyes of the world to true torture and real police brutality.

The press conference, was sponsored by the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC), under the chairmanship of Dr. Suzanne Scholte. The NKFC was joined by U.S. Representatives Ed Royce (R-CA) andEliot Engel (D-NY) to focus on the circumstances of nine North Korean teenagers who were forced back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in May 2013 by the Laotian and Chinese governments. Their whereabouts has been unknown since the repatriation, but recent rumors have suggested that at least some of the seven boys and two girls may have been executed as punishment for leaving Kim Jong Un’s wonderland.

The young people are known as the “Laos Nine” because it was from Laos that they were returned to China and repatriated to North Korea. They had been part of the kkotjebbi (homeless North Korean children living on the streets in China). They were taken in by a missionary “MJ” and his wife, who have saved the lives of many North Korean children, in spite of the risk to themselves.

Police brutality is a daily reality for the kkotjebbi according to MJ. In a statement for the press conference, he revealed that “most of the children were eating what they could find in trash cans and were sleeping in the sewers in freezing conditions,” all the while trying to avoid the notice of the brutal Chinese border patrol guards who beat them with clubs and metal brushes.

MJ said that the children “had no access to medical care and begged on the streets with frostbitten and infected feet.” And yet for North Korean escapees, even facing beatings from the Chinese police and freezing to death are preferable than being caught by the Chinese government and forcibly repatriated to the police state of North Korea.

The missionary couple feared to remain in China with “their children.” Although North Korean defectors are recognized internationally as refugees, China routinely violates its obligations to respect the principle of non-refoulement under international refugee and human rights law and sends North Koreans back to certain imprisonment and probable death. So in April of 2013, MJ, his wife, and the nine teens began a journey from China to North Korea. After they crossed the Chinese/Laotian border they were arrested by the Laotian authorities and instead of accommodating their safe passage to South Korea, the Laotian government collaborated with the Chinese government to send the teens back to China from which they were returned to North Korea.

In February 2014, a report issued by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Koreaechoed what human rights organizations have been saying for years. The COI’s report, under the authority of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, thoroughly details the deplorable conditions for the citizens of Kim Jong Un’s regime, and the unspeakable torture that those confined to one of the prison camps in the vast network across the DPRK. In Section 60, “Arbitrary detention, torture, executions, and prison camps,” the report reveals:

In the political prison camps of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the inmate population has been gradually eliminated through deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide. The commission estimates that hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades. The unspeakable atrocities that are being committed against inmates of the kwanliso political prison camps resemble the horrors of camps that totalitarian States established during the twentieth century.

Congressman Royce, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, opened the December 10 press conference on the Laos Nine. He and all of the other speakers referred to COI’s report. Royce echoed the COI’s recommendations that the UN General Assembly consider a resolution to condemn North Korea for human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, and that North Korea be referred to the International Criminal Court. The Chairman also stressed the immediate need for the Senate to take up a piece of legislation (H.R. 1771) that was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives, calling for strong sanctions against North Korea.

H.R. 1771, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act, according to the NKFC, “calls for the harnessing of the Treasury Department’s regulatory oversight of the hub of the global financial system, blocking the accounts and revenue streams that sustain Kim Jong Un’s oppression and control of the North Korean people, along with his weapons programs, arms trafficking, proliferation, and money laundering.” The NKFC also says that the bill “blocks the funds of third-country entities that knowingly facilitation North Korea’s crimes against humanity, and its violations of U.N. Security Council sanctions.” If the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee responsible for the recent shameful report really care about human rights and stopping torture, they would work to pass immediately H.R. 1771, the North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act.

Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has worked in partnership with Royce for a number of years on a variety of human rights issues. He repeated his House colleague’s call for action in both the United Nations and the U.S. Congress. Engel also noted that the decision of the Laotian government to send the nine orphans back to China and then back to North Korea violates international law.

Thankfully, as the North Korea Freedom Coalition pointed out in aletteraddressed to Laotian President Lt. Gen. Choummaly Sayasone, since the incident with the Laos Nine, the Laotian government hasnot forced any other North Korean refugees – either adult or children – back to North Korea. “We urge you to continue this humanitarian policy which is consistent with international refugee law and we urge you to work with the Republic of Korea and other nations on the safe resettlement of North Korean refugees until conditions improve in that country,” the Coalition wrote.

Following the remarks by the members of Congress, NKFC advocates displayed photos of the nine children and told their story as told by missionary MJ. The first speaker, NKFC Vice Chairman, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, declared that it was important for the children and other North Koreans longing for freedom to know that they “are not forgotten.” Cooper held the photo of the oldest of the North Korean orphans, Moon-Chul, who was 19 at the time of repatriation. According to the little bit of biographical information, this young man:

. . . suffered frostbite on his feet. There was no place where he could receive medical care so he had to cut his own three frostbitten toes off. Despite his difficulty walking due to his injuries and all that he suffered, he always had a kind heart which led him to take care of the young kkotjebbis and give them food that was found first. Because of Moon-Chul’s kindness in caring for Ryu Kwong-Hyuk, who was much weaker, Kwong Hyuk survived.

Another one of the NKFC advocates followed up with a photo of Ryu Kwong-Hyuk, 17 at the time of repatriation, and told of him:

This young man was unable to beg or steal for food because he felt great shame for his condition. When Moon-Chul found him he was nearly starved to death, but Moon-Chul kept Kwong-Hyuk alive making sure he had food. Kwong-Hyuk’s dream is to get an education and one day serve the poor.

If the mainstream media is so morally scrupulous that it is appalled by enhanced interrogation of radical jihadists, it should be doubly appalled by the deliberate starvation of human beings by their own government and the imprisonment of 100,000 men, women, and children in political prison camps under horrific conditions.

If the Senate Intelligence Committee could spend some $50 million to condemn the waterboarding of the mastermind of 9/11, who sawed the head of Danny Pearl…could they spare a little compassion for Noh Yea Ji, a 14 year old North Korean orphan girl who was sold as a slave in China three times, rescued along with the rest of the Laos Nine, and who has now disappeared in the torture chamber that is North Korea?

This article appeared on the Institute on Religion and Democracy’s blog and is used with permission.



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