A North Korean defector in South Korea was hospitalized after a nine-day hunger strike.
Lee Dong-hyun, 46, was protesting the deaths of a North Korean woman and her infant son and the repatriation of a North Korea boat crew, when he fell ill, South Korean news service Newsis reported Tuesday. Lee was suffering from malnutrition and “weakened stamina” when he was taken to a hospital in Seoul, according to the report.
A North Korean defector emergency response committee, which has called for greater protection of defectors following the deaths, and South Korea’s emergency dispatch office, said Lee was fasting when his health began to quickly deteriorate. He returned home after five to six hours at the hospital.
Lee is demanding the resignation of South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul. Lee has said Kim is responsible for the deaths of the defectors and the “forced repatriation” of North Korean fishermen in November. The fishermen were suspected of homicide and returned to the North; Seoul has said they are not protected under South Korea’s Act on North Korea Refugee Protection and Settlement Support.
Defectors are receiving backing for their cause from the opposition Liberty Korea Party. LKP lawmakers who have created a task force on the repatriations say Seoul should confirm the status of the repatriated North Koreans, according to Newsis.