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Friday, January 07, 2005

North Korean defectors and the left

There has been much consternation in the Korea-related blogosphere about the recent announcement by the South Korean government that it would stop welcoming large groups of defectors/refugees from North Korea and crackdown on the brokers that arrange for refugees to get from China to South Korea (see for example: NKZone Marmot). Seoul is also planning to cut by two thirds the amount of financial aid given to defectors for settlement once they arrive in the South.

I have to say that I also disagree with the new policy of the South Korean government and I don't think this is an issue that should be left to the rightwing, regime change lobby. This is an important issue for the left too. Unfortunately, as Chông Chin-hûi points out in the latest edition of Ta Hamkke some sections of the Korean left have welcomed the government's new policy, including sections of the Democratic Labour Party (apologies for rough translation - it's late):
This policy arises from the cynical calculation that the economic burden of the rising number of defectors needs to be reduced and that diplomatic friction with China and North Korea must be avoided... The Democratic Labour Party's decision to "welcome" this callous and hypocritical policy is regretable. The DLP's delight that this policy "positively reflects" the demands that it has been making for some time brings shame upon the name of a progressive party... If maintaining the stability of "north-south relations" means ignoring the basic rights of defectors, who is this stability for? What kind of socialism is a socialism that doesn't even recognise the freedom to migrate and seek asylum?
If the DLP wants to be a consistent progressive party it must have regard for the situation of the ordinary workers and people of North Korea rather than the problems of the North Korean ruling class.
We urgently need an internationalist perspective that welcomes North Korean defectors and opposes the government's attempt to put a curb on the numbers entering the country.


At January 07, 2005 5:56 AM, Blogger Antti Leppänen said...

Good points alltogether.
Found an interesting series of articles from and old issue of Hankyoreh21 from the late 97 that I've been keeping. The mag strongly criticizes the then Agency of National Security Planning for choosing defectors to be allowed to enter ROK for their information value alone; it also demands that all those who want to enter ROK be allowed in if only in the humanitarian grounds: "동포애로 탈북자 바라봐야". (Link to the story)

I also think the same mag would nowadays not print an interview of a German professor demanding unconditional acceptance of all DPRK citizens, like West Germany did for East Germans. (Link to the interview)

But that was the time of Kim Young-sam's presidency, and the times change.

At January 07, 2005 9:32 AM, Blogger kotaji said...

Thanks for the links. I'll definitely check them out.

At January 09, 2005 4:02 AM, Blogger josh narins said...

Sadly for the Northerners, the immigrant has no inalienable right to demand succor from the State that I am aware of (I'm totally ignorant of Korean law, it must be noted).

Now, it is in the interest of the State to integrate all members in productive roles.

One thing which will drive the politics of this is the 1) total immigrant population and 2) changes in rates of new immigration.

In America, there is a new, unchallenged xenophobia rising (pushed by second rate Congresspeople, and aired uncritically on Murdoch-owned outlets), and we are above the 100+ year average of 10% immigrants, and rising (as of a few years ago).

Is the government being thrifty, or is it being anti-immigrant?

Anti-immigrant, no doubt.

The proof is left as an exercise to people who might know the first thing about internal Korean politics :)


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