Recently, a family of four fled North Korea to China after dosing the border guards with sleeping pills. After learning the news, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared: “The defectors must be caught and punished no matter the cost!”
According to The Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean daily newspaper, a family of four in North Korea crossed the Yalu River and escaped to China in the early hours of Oct. 1 by creating a security gap at the border.
The family apparently had been making a living from smuggling so they were familiar with the route to China. They were often allowed by the guards to be at the border.
The family targeted a squadron captain of the border security, with whom they had a good personal relationship. They prepared carbonated drinks and bread dosed with sleeping pills and delivered them in the early morning of Oct. 1 when the captain and his squad were on duty. After the guards fell asleep, the family crossed the river.
After discovering the family had fled, the border guards immediately reported the incident to North Korea’s National Defense Commission. The following day, Kim Jong-un issued an order stating that his government would spend whatever it takes to bring the defectors back and make an example out of them.
The squadron captain, who had been drugged, reportedly said the family had no financial difficulties, and there are no defectors or criminals among their relatives. He could not foresee any reason for the family to escape.
According to the investigation, the family’s escape may have been due to the ongoing enhancement of barriers and high-voltage lines in the border areas. The family once told the border guards that they might not be able to do business in the future, suggesting they will lose hope and can’t live a decent life.
North Korea’s National Defense Ministry had requested the assistance of China’s Ministry of Defense and Public Security personnel to help arrest the deserters. The North Korean authorities also went to border villages to investigate which residents’ homes the border guards frequented. The media suggested that the atmosphere in the border area has become increasingly tense.
Expert: North Korea—World’s Most Serious Human Rights Tragedy
Suzanne Scholte, chairman of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, a North Korean human rights group based in the United States, told The Epoch Times that North Korea remains one of the world’s most serious human rights tragedies due to the “triple dictatorships of the Kim family regime.” And that it is the only country in the world where its citizens are not entitled to a single human right as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“They have not a single human right, and the women of North Korea will tell you that their value is equivalent to that of a fly,” Scholte said.
“There are thousands of North Korean workers in China that are slave laborers for the [Kim] regime as most of their pay goes to the regime. In addition, many North Korean women in rural towns are bought by Chinese men as “wives” because China has had this shortage of women [due to] the one-child policy.”
According to Scholte, “Juche” is the religion of North Korea. From childhood, North Koreans must worship the Kim dictatorship through creeds, prayers, and songs—and learn its doctrines.
“It’s really demonic and explains why millions of innocent people have died at the hands of this regime. At least 3 million died during the Arduous March—[the North Korean famine, a period of mass starvation together with a general economic crisis from 1994 to 1998 in North Korea]—all the deaths preventable, but the regime used humanitarian aid as a weapon against the North Korean people,” Scholte said.
As with all communist countries, North Korea has a vast series of political prison camps where entire families are incarcerated, if a family member is accused of a crime. Children are in these camps, and some spend their lives there as they were born there. Crimes in North Korea may involve listening to South Korean K-pop music or watching South Korean soap operas, traveling without permission, or not properly respecting the dictator.
According to a statement by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, in February 2014, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea (UN COI) found North Korea’s political prison camps to be places where the most egregious crimes against humanity are being committed. The crimes include extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape and other grave sexual violence, and persecution on political, religious, and gender grounds.
Scholte estimated there are between 600 to 1000 North Koreans currently detained in China’s detention centers who were trying to get to South Korea.
“We must absolutely insist that China allow safe passage to all North Koreans who were trying to get to South Korea. Because it is a crime punishable by death in North Korea to leave the country without permission, they will be executed—perhaps, even publicly—if they are forcefully repatriated back to North Korea,” Scholte added.
“North Korean refugees are unique: they are unlike any refugees in the world as they have a place for immediate resettlement because they are [considered] citizens of South Korea under the [South Korean] constitution. So [the South Korean government] must engage with China to ensure these refugees have safe passage to South Korea.”
Jinbaek Lee contributed to this report.