North Korea Claims Women Defectors

Connie Chang, Aug. 7, 2017, 9:31 a.m.

North Korea has told a UN agency that a total of 6,473 women defectors were repatriated to the isolated country over the past decade but "most" were not punished.

Voice of America on Friday quoted a recent statement from the North to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women ahead of its country reviews in early November that those women "returned" to the North after traveling overseas without valid travel permits between 2005 and 2016.

Most are presumed to have been forcibly sent back to the North from China.

The statement said most of the women crossed the border illegally because they had economic difficulties or fell victim to trafficking groups. "Therefore, they were not subjected to any legal punishment, and are now enjoying stabilized life thanks to the all-embracing, benevolent politics of the state," it added.

It claimed only 33 were punished for involvement in felonies like attempted murder and drug trafficking overseas.

The claims fly in the face of overwhelming testimony from defectors that the returned women suffer inhumane treatment, including beatings, torture and rape, according to a report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the North.

Still, it is unprecedented for the North to put a figure on how many of these women were repatriated.

"It seems that the regime made a false statement to cover up its grave violations of the human rights of returned women defectors and to deflect international pressure over these abuses," said Han Dong-ho of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

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