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Monday, January 10, 2005

Tikhonov on NK defectors

Vladimir Tikhonov (aka Pak Noja / 박노자) of Oslo University has pointed out to me an interesting aspect of the current changes in South Korean governmnent policy on North Korean defectors that hadn't occurred to me:
On the issue of North Korean defectors - I am afraid that recent statement by Roh's minister is unconstitutional in terms of S.Korea's own legal system, as, so far, the Constitution regards all residents of Republic of Korea's "legal territory" (Korean Pen. and the adjacent islands) as (South) Korean citizens, without giving North Korea the benefit of legal recognition. So, in principle, the N.Korean defectors may take the S.Korean government to court for preventing them, as born (South) Korean citizens, from travelling to their motherland. The problem is that for the N.Koreans, the idea of legally challenging a state they are either living in or planning to go to, may seem somewhat outlandish. But I hope they will soon learn about this legal mechanism.
He adds:
there are recently some moves in S.Korea in the direction of changing the constitution in the direction of recognizing N.Korea's statehood and modifying the description of what constitutes (South) Korean territory appropriately. But once made, these changes might produce not only good (closer ties to North Korea), but also lots of bad consequences - for one, if N.K. regime were to fall and China was to move its troops into Pyongyang to prevent the Americans from doing so, S.Korea would be at a loss for legal arguments against it. Then, such constitutional changes will effectively stem the growth of the N.K. refugee community inside S.Korea - which is, after all, a seed of unification in itself, despite all the discrimination and adjustment difficulties.
On a related matter, Oranckay has an interesting post from yesterday about the decision by the South Korean government to change the term used to used to denote defectors from t'albukcha (탈북자) to the seemingly more positive-sounding saet'ômin (새터민).


At January 13, 2005 6:09 AM, Blogger Antti Leppänen said...

Where's that quote from? Doesn't really sound like the columns he's been writing. Did you meet him in person?

For the reference, here's a recent view from the left to DPRK defector issue in an article which compares US assistance to the defectors to the Bay of Pigs thing in 1961 (!) (from Ohmynews, also contributed to Digital Mal)

[QUOTE]What's basically different between "defection" (t'albuk) and "planned defection" (kihoek t'albuk) is that "defection" results from a voluntary choice by a DPRK person due to economic hardships, while in "planned defections" the defection is made into a human rights issue, and is done involuntary (t'ayuljôgûro) through the actions of those whose aim is to isolate DPRK internationally.
탈북과 기획탈북이 본질적으로 다르다고 하는 것은, ‘탈북’은 경제적 곤경에 처한 북한 주민들의 자율적 선택에 의해 이루어지는 것인 반면, ‘기획탈북’은 탈북을 인권문제로 부각시키며 북한정권의 국제적 고립을 목표로 하는 사람들의 개입에 의해서 타율적으로 이루어지는 것이기 때문이다.[ENDQUOTE]

See, there are no voluntary defections made because of political reasons!

At January 13, 2005 9:17 AM, Blogger kotaji said...

Sorry, I should perhaps have made it clearer. The quotations are from a personal e-mail communication.

It seems to me that the distinction between 'planned' and 'voluntary' defections is a highly unrealistic one. If you stop and think about it, do some people do something for 'purely' economic reasons while others do it for 'purely' political ones? The economic and political cannot be separated in this sort of formalistic way. And as you point out Antti, it is also quite patronising toward North Koreans, assuming that they have no 'real' motivations of their own but are only lead by nasty foreigners who are scheming to bring down the DPRK.

At the same time... the 'regime changers' are trying to make good use of the human rights issue, as they did with Iraq, so I think we have to be careful where we stand on this one.


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