North Korea urged to reveal whereabouts of two men repatriated in 2019

South Korean lawmakers from the International Coalition of Parliamentarians for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights on Wednesday revealed the identities of two North Koreans who were forcibly repatriated in 2019. (IPCNKR)

A delegation of South Korean lawmakers on Wednesday called on North Korea to clarify the fate of two North Korean men who were repatriated in 2019 after their defection was denied by South Korea.

In a joint statement, the four lawmakers from the International Coalition of Parliamentarians for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights identified the two North Koreans for the first time as Woo Beom-sun and Kim Hyun-wook.

Both are from Cheongjin, a city in North Korea’s far northeast Hamgyong province, and should be around 25 to 26 years old if they are still alive, according to lawmakers.

Lawmakers said they decided to release their identities to prompt North Korea to determine if the repatriated men are alive.

“We ask North Korea to confirm that Mr. Woo Beom-seon and Mr. Kim Hyun-wook are alive and well before the United Nations and the international community,” they said. “These are urgent questions that must be answered if North Korea is to avoid being known as the country with the worst human rights abuses in the world.”

In the same statement, the lawmakers accused the South Korean government of violating the principle of non-refoulement and the international ban on torture, and said prosecutors had recently opened investigations into possible wrongdoing by the from the South Korean authorities during the repatriation.

The delegation consisting of Representatives Ha Tae-keung, Ji Seong-ho, Hong Suk-joon and Hwangbo Seung-hee of South Korea’s ruling People’s Power Party began its six-day trip to the United States on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, lawmakers met with US Undersecretary Uzra Zeya to discuss joint steps to address North Korea’s human rights issues. At the meeting, lawmakers said they hoped for the prompt appointment of a special envoy for North Korea human rights issues in the US State Department, a position that has been vacant since January 2017.

After circumstances suggesting an involuntary return were revealed by the South Korean press, North Korean human rights experts said the two men had likely suffered abuse after being handed over to North Korean authorities. Korean.

In an August 29 letter to Elizabeth Salmon, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, the Transitional Justice Working Group said: “The life and well-being of the two repatriated North Korean escapees should be paramount.

“Unfortunately, the South Korean government never asked North Korea to reveal the fate and whereabouts of the two individuals, whose names remain anonymous,” the group said.

The group added that it is believed that the two North Koreans “disappeared, tortured and executed without due process and fair trial” there, and that the North Korean government “will ignore calls for clarification”.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch, said in a November 12, 2019 statement that “the removal of these two men to North Korea was illegal under international law because of the likelihood that they are tortured”. under North Korea’s extremely brutal legal system.

By Kim Arin ([email protected])

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