Published: Sat, November 09, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

South Korea deports North Koreans who fled after killing 16

South Korea deports North Koreans who fled after killing 16

South Korea's expulsion of two North Korean fishermen set a bad precedent that has spread fears in the North Korean defector community and could lend legitimacy to its widely criticised judicial system, defectors and activists said on Friday.

The security meeting came ahead of the scheduled expiration on November 23 of the military intelligence-sharing pact between South Korea and Japan, called the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).

It all began when the fishermen crossed to South Korea.

Human rights experts and lawyers told RFA's Korean Service that deportation was not the way South Korea should have handled the situation.

Despite the criminal allegations against the North Korean fishermen, some defector and human rights groups in Seoul say the men deserved the legal protections offered by South Korea, noting it is highly likely they will now be executed without a fair trial.

The three then killed the other 15 crew members to cover up the crime and dumped all bodies overboard.

China regards defectors as illegal migrants, rather than refugees, and often forcibly repatriates them.

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The three went back to Kimchaek port with the intention of moving to another region of North Korea. South Korean media outlets also cited sources as saying this year's drill could be held under a different name similar to last December's exercise in which the two countries' air forces conducted the drill separately without the participation of US strategic assets, such as B-1B Lancer bombers.

Lee said Seoul has determined the two's acceptance to the South Korean society would threaten its own public safety.

He maintained that the men should be deemed innocent until proven guilty. You can never assume a person's guilt", he said, adding, "Arrest them.

North Korea's state media has made no mention of the pair.

"The problem, frankly, is that the South Korean government has continuously failed to take North Korean human rights seriously. It's actually shameful and unacceptable", said Robertson. The two men, both in their 20s, breached the inter-Korean maritime frontier off the east coast into the South aboard a squid fishing boat on Saturday and South Korean authorities detained them for questioning, ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min said.

"It doesn't make sense at all". They are interrogated by South Korean authorities and spend time in facilities to learn more about the country, including its education system.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report incorrectly attributed some of Robertson's comments to Scarlatoiu.

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