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North Korean defector begs China to free spouse and younger son

“My son is now four, please think of my son as you think of your grandson and take pity on him.”

The defector, Mr. Lee, has not seen his Four-year-old son since he was was detained by Chinese authorities, alongside along with his mom — Lee’s spouse, on November Four, whereas trying to flee from North Korea.

“My son is only four so he probably doesn’t understand what a jail is. Why is he in a cold room, what guilt does he carry to have been put in a cold jail cell? I’m angry at the world,” mentioned Lee.

To shield the household, CNN is utilizing the pseudonym Mr. Lee, and is blurring the faces of the household in pictures.

 Mr. Lee is currently unaware of the exact whereabouts of his 4-years-old son.

Bitter regrets

Lee, who now resides in South Korea, defected alone in 2015. He feared the lengthy and tough journey — sometimes masking a whole lot of miles throughout robust terrain — was too harmful for his spouse and baby, a call he now bitterly regrets.

“While I was coming alone, I was thinking, even if I die, I must die alone, if I am captured I will surely die … I carried poison with me in case I was captured … I regret it to my bones that I came out alone.”

In October of this yr, Lee organized for his spouse and baby to be helped out of North Korea, however half approach by means of the journey Chinese authorities arrested them together with eight different defectors in Shenyang, a metropolis in northeast China. The pair had efficiently crossed the North Korean border, and had been making ready to journey by means of China to cross into South Korea the place they might be a part of Lee.

“I called them and they said they were captured, they were in handcuffs. I heard their urgent voices and then the line went dead.” He has heard nothing since and is now uncertain of their actual whereabouts.

China doesn’t think about these escaping North Korea to be refugees, labeling them as a substitute as “illegal economic migrants.” Under such a coverage they’re routinely despatched again to North Korea the place they’re met with virtually sure punishment.

China’s international ministry mentioned final week it was unaware of the 10 defectors arrested, “China consistently upholds the handling of such matters in accordance with domestic and international law and humanitarian principles.”

The variety of defectors reaching South Korea is falling — from 2,700 in 2011, the yr former chief Kim Jong Il died, to round half that quantity final yr, in keeping with South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Increased border controls by each North Korea and China are considered the first cause for the drop.

Mr. Lee bitterly regrets that he left his family behind when he defected in 2015.

Changing circumstances

Reverend Kim Seung-eun and his Caleb Mission has helped defectors escape North Korea for 20 years, personally claiming to have helped round 500 individuals.

Kim, who’s now advising Lee, attributes their seize to wider modifications. He says it now prices $20,000 to deliver somebody from North Korea to South Korea through China. Twenty, years in the past it value a fraction of that. He says that is a mirrored image of how rather more tough defecting has grow to be.

“China who talks about human rights, have erected fences along the Tumen and Yalu rivers to arrest defectors,” the pastor mentioned.

Lee says those that plan to go to South Korea slightly than settle in China are punished extra harshly by North Korea.

“We call those people “specific.” My wife is “specific,” if she were sent back to North Korea, her punishment will be worse, being sent to the political camps would be the minimum.”

Mr. Lee's son has not been since being detained by Chinese authorities on November 4.

Lee is aware of the North Korean jail system, spending 5 years in jail from the age of 16 along with his father.

He says his crime was very small however his grandfather was initially from South Korea. For that cause he says his household was persecuted for many years. “Starvation is natural, human rights abuses … many are beaten to death by the guards. Someone would steal food because they were hungry and they would be beaten to death … of 3,000 inmates on average, about three a day would die.”

Lee says his father died whereas he was in jail. He breaks down on the thought that his younger son may very well be punished in the identical approach.

South Korea’s Presidential workplace says they’ve requested China to deal with North Korea defectors from a humanitarian perspective, a message given simply earlier than President Moon Jae-in met President Xi final Saturday in Vietnam, the place a regional financial was held.

It offers Lee some hope as does a speech to South Korea’s parliament by U.S. President Donald Trump final week the place he listed North Korea’s human rights abuses saying the nation “is a hell no person deserves.”

Lee is asking President Trump to intervene, “I’ve never seen someone give such a speech. Although we as North Koreans have experienced the living hell first hand, I don’t think we could put it into words like that.”


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