North Korean Activists Urge Indonesia to Help Stop Abuses

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  • North Koreans protest against their leaders who intend to launch a nuclear test during the 101st birthday celebration of Kim Il Sung (15/4). (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

    North Koreans protest against their leaders who intend to launch a nuclear test during the 101st birthday celebration of Kim Il Sung (15/4). (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

    TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesia should join the fight against human rights violations in North Korea, activists from South Korea said in Jakarta on May 22.

    The activists, from the Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR), visited Jakarta to raise awareness among Indonesians on the situation in their homeland. The press conference was held at the Commision for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) office.

    Principal among the activists' immediate concerns was that China not send back North Korean defectors.

    "The North Korean government treats defectors as criminals," NKHR member Suk-Woo Kim said. "They were tortured and even murdered when repatriated to Pyongyang."

    Jae Won, an international law professor at Handong Global University in South Korea, said China should protect North Korean refugees. "Sending them back to North Korea is the same as threatening to kill them, which is a violation of international law," he said.

    Jae won said he hoped North Korea would free political prisoners held in special camps, known as gwalliso, especially women and children. He estimates that over ten gwallisos now held around 200,000 prisoners, most of them children.

    Suk-Woo Kim, who is also a former vice minister for South Korea's Unification Ministry, said the Indonesian government should rally other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to the cause.

    As home to the current UN Special Rapporteur on North Korea, Indonesia had an opportunity to pave the way for activism, Suk said. "I hope other ASEAN countries will become more concerned on this issue, so the repatriation of defectors can be stopped," he said.

    The United Nations has said the North Korean government has committing violence against defectors. Pyongyang has denied these accusations.

    SADIKA HAMID, NATALIA SANTI