30 defectors caught in China and repatriated to North Korea

Seol Song Ah  |  2016-09-23 13:06
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Approximately 30 North Koreans previously caught escaping the country and repatriated from China have been detained for months by Sinuiju state security agents. These individuals have been subject to continual beatings by security agents during interrogation, Daily NK has learned.

At the state security jail in Sinuiju, some 30 people who were caught in China are being held and interrogated, a source from North Pyongan Province reported to Daily NK. Although they were handed over by Chinese police back in April, for months the authorities have been conducting background checks and ordering them to write out their testimonies."

This news was corroborated by additional sources in North Pyongan Province.

The prisoners are being detained in cells with leaky ceilings and are surviving on cornmeal mixed with grass and sand, and most are lacking enough energy to even sit upright in their cells. During hours of forced labor, if a prisoner collapses and is unable to get up, the other detainees are ordered to beat up that individual, reported the source. 

Although one of the women was beaten up so harshly during interrogation that she can no longer walk, she has been completely neglected and received no medical attention, the source said, adding that no one is held accountable in the event that a repatriated defector is starved or beaten to death. 

The Norths Ministry of State Security usually interrogates defectors who have been sent back initially in Namyang (North Hamgyong Province) or Sinuiju (North Pyongan Province). Prisoners are forcefully interrogated on the details of each individual they interacted with during their time in China, their travel history, and whether they came in contact with South Korean missionaries, watched videos, or received assistance in defecting. 

Depending on the severity of the alleged crimes, they are then sent to kyohwaso (long-term re-education camps) or labor-training camps. Those accused of the gravest offenses are immediately sent to political prison camps instead of being handed to the local authorities at their original place of residence. 

Throughout the process of interrogating the prisoners and determining the degree of criminality, habitual beatings and demands for bribes have become commonplace. Rather than using due legal process to punish the defectors, the authorities have instead learned that playing on fears can lead to bigger bribes being paid. 

Even for those accused of relatively light offenses, cadre from the security office threaten them with a lengthy prison camp sentence, before openly asking for a bribe, the source explained. You can tell them that they can receive money, but only through someone in South Korea, and theyll still agree, demanding them to send it through a third party in China, the source reported. 

Among the individuals apprehended was a woman in her 30s, who was caught living with a Han Chinese man in Shandong Province and forcefully repatriated by the Chinese authorities. She was charged with committing a minor offense but was detained for months. Only after her relatives in the South sent 5,000 USD as a bribe was she sent back to her home in Hyesan, reported the source. 

The pervasiveness of security agents openly demanding bribes has infuriated many residents. The fact that security agents are exploiting the leaderships extreme hostility towards defectors is contributing to peoples underlying loathing for the regime, the source noted. 

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee
*Edited by Lee Farrand

 
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2017.12.14
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