North Korea’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) has refused the repatriation of North Korean defectors currently imprisoned in a facility in Dandong, China, Daily NK has learned.

Last month North Korea sealed its borders with China due to fears over the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and defectors scheduled to be repatriated to North Korea from China were also banned from returning to the country.  

“There are more than 20 defectors currently imprisoned in Dandong, including a pregnant woman in her 20s,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on Feb. 28. 

The source learned about the situation from the family of the pregnant women, who, in turn, had learned about their daughter’s plight from an MSS agent responsible for the repatriation cases.

The pregnant woman was arrested in December in Shenyang, despite being married to a Chinese man.

The family of the pregnant woman found out about her arrest from her Chinese husband and are now hoping that the woman will be repatriated after giving birth in China.

“According to the MSS agent, there are more than 20 defectors who are currently imprisoned in Dandong awaiting repatriation. Because of the coronavirus they have not been allowed to cross the border,” one source said. 

The Chinese police have requested a speedy repatriation process for the defectors, but North Korea has refused to allow them in citing the closure of the border.

The Chinese authorities reportedly even proposed that the pregnant woman be repatriated first so that she might be able to give birth in North Korea. North Korean officials reportedly refused this proposal, forcing the Chinese to put the woman in a hospital for her delivery.  

Family members are reportedly happy the woman has been put into a hospital in China and have praised the coronavirus for “saving the child,” sources told Daily NK.

The MSS has been known to conducted forced abortions on pregnant defectors after their return to North Korea because their children have “Chinese blood.” 

“The defectors currently in prison have been in there for over two months, so it is likely they are feeling frustrated,” one source told Daily NK. “There has to be a decision made, one way or another, if they are to leave. The longer they are in limbo, the more anxious they will become.”

*Translated by Violet Kim

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