Concern is growing over the fate of a group of 15 North Korean defectors and Chinese guides who have been arrested by Liaoning Province security forces in the southern city of Kunming. The group had reportedly been en route to South Korea via Southeast Asia at the time of their arrest.
The South Korean authorities have been urged to seek the group’s release before they can be transferred back to the border region with North Korea, by which time their forced repatriation will be all but guaranteed.
A source reported on the 18th that the members of the group were seized on the 15th as they boarded a bus bound for an unknown Southeast Asian location. Two Chinese-Korean guides were also arrested. Immediately after the arrests, the organization that had been helping them sought assistance from the South Korean government.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Unification revealed today that Seoul is currently working to establish the facts, but nothing has yet been confirmed.
According to the source, “After they were seized the group was taken to the public security bureau in Kunming.” The same source then warned, “There is the possibility that they could be flown up into Liaoning today or tomorrow, so the government must do all it can now to get access to the group and secure their release. If they are taken to Liaoning there will be no way to stop their repatriation.”
The Chinese government has not released any information on the case thus far. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in a briefing earlier today that “I’m not aware of the specifics you mentioned,” according to Yonhap News.