Dr. Martin Schmidt
Humanities I in Action
24 January 2018
North Korean Refugee Crisis
In May 2016, more than 200,000 refugees – North Korean
defectors – were hiding in China, fearing for their life. As of 2018, there are
likely to be far more. Why do these people risk their lives to escape North
Korea and Kim’s regime? This paper will cover why this problem exists and how
we should go about solving this problem.
North Korean Choose to Defect
conditions of extreme poverty and devastating famine, many North Koreans have
defected. If they make it to South Korea, they are almost always granted asylum
and citizenship under the South Korean constitution. However, direct defection
by means of crossing through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), dotted with land
mines, razor wire, and a heavy American and South Korean troop presence, is
often an unfeasible choice. Most defectors have chosen an alternative route,
illegally fleeing into mainland China. The number of defectors is widely
estimated, ranging from several thousand, according to the South Korean
government’s estimation, to hundreds of thousands, as estimated by
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Conversely, there have been certain
observations suggesting that North Korean human rights issues, including the
defector problem, might instigate a regime change in North Korea. With the
development of its nuclear and missile programs, Pyongyang has faced
international pressure, including UN Security Council resolutions 1718 and
1874, which imposed sanctions against North Korea in order to get the country
to halt its nuclear tests and that required it to suspend all ballistic
missile–related activity. In response, North Korea has offensively criticized
the UN resolutions as a political conspiracy by the United States, Japan, and
the European Union to overthrow its regime and ideology. Thus, arguments have
arisen over whether or not human rights issues in the North should be related
to political and security agendas.
This causes many to doubt that in order to realize the
full potential of the energy mechanism that North Korea is building, we first
Although the North Korean government operates a
weapons export program, counterfeits American currency, and sells illegal drugs
and fake cigarettes, the majority of its population is impoverished and
malnourished, all except the people in the highest positions who live in Pyongyang.
In the past, North Korea has resorted to starvation as a political instrument (Haggard,
7), and ordinary citizens are denied basic human rights. All who live in North
Korea live in fear, worshipping Kim like a god. It is because of this that
these North Korean defectors take huge risks to escape the country that they
are trapped in the
They believe that a better life is possible outside of
North Korea, and want to pursure opportunities in other countries.
Haggard, Stephan, et al. The
North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Responses. U.S.
Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 2006.
McComb, Bayley. “10 Facts About
North Korean Refugees You Should Know.” The Borgen Project, 31 Oct.
Shin-Wha, and Kyung-Ae Park. “International Legal Perspectives on North Korean
Refugee Issues.” Non-Traditional
Security Issues in North Korea, University of Hawai’i Press, 2013.