Just a month after hosting a summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Vietnam has deported three North Korean refugees, sending them home via China to an uncertain future in their homeland.
The deportations mark a worrying new development for fleeing North Koreans, who previously had been safe if they managed to evade capture in China and reach a third country. Vietnam has been one of Southeast Asian countries that provide safe haven for North Korean escapees, helping them reach South Korea.
The deportations could also be an indication of North Korea’s growing diplomatic clout and lessening isolation since Kim Jong Un stepped onto the global stage over the past year.
Aid workers told South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper that the South Korean Foreign Ministry failed to respond to a request to assist the refugees, a claim the ministry denied. The ministry repeatedly told them to wait, but no assistance was provided before the refugees were sent to China on Wednesday, the aid workers told Chosun Ilbo.
The Foreign Ministry in Seoul denied the report, saying in a statement that the ministry “immediately got in contact with the local authorities and took a stand against forcible repatriation to North Korea.” The ministry declined to comment on the safety and whereabouts of the refugees.
[The Washington Post]