Saturday, February 18, 2006

US to Begin Accepting North Korean Defectors

It looks like the United States will further break from South Korea and begin accepting North Korean refugees for the first time: Participants said it was important that the U.S. takes on some of the refugees who ended up in a country other than South Korea.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also implied a policy shift by saying, “We are reviewing our policies on refugees, reviewing them with DHS (Department of Homeland Security), reviewing them with the FBI, to see if we can find a way to participate in the refugee activities as well.” If it does admit them, it is likely to exacerbate tensions with North Korea in an already chilly climate because of Washington’s sanctions and the North’s nuclear ambitions.

The North Korean Human Rights Act, which went into effect in October of 2004, stipulates that North Korean refugees can seek asylum or residence in the U.S. despite the fact that they are automatically entitled to South Korean citizenship. This is further evidence that Washington is speeding up efforts to pressure the Pyongyang regime. First the US government implemented economic sanctions due to North Korea's money laundering and counterfeiting operations, then the Japanese began to raid companies aiding North Korean weapons programs and now the accepting of North Korean refugees in America. Neither Pyongyang or Seoul will be to happy about this. This is a big loss of face for Pyongyang when it's citizens are defecting to it's sworn enemy the United States plus asylum in the US is only going to encourage more defections which is what Washington is probably hoping to create.

From GI Korea..

Seoul isn't going to like this because it will anger North Korea and negatively effect their Sunshine Policy exchanges. Plus Seoul has to be worried about how well North Korean refugees integrate in American society compared to South Korean society. If North Korean refugees begin to integrate better in the United States than South Korea where they are discriminated against; this will cause a loss of face for the South Korean government.

Now why is the US government encouraging defections? The main reason I think is because a loss of man power and skilled labor from North Korea will negatively effect the Kim Jong Il regime. Factories can't operate without laborers. South Korea and China having been trying with some success on clamping down on North Korean defectors but the recent policy change from the United States is sure to encourage North Korean citizens to defect from the horror of the Kim Jong Il's regime and hope to obtain the American dream.

Well USA-Korea relations are sure going to take a huge hit this year with a proposed NK-SK summit, Screen Quota and now this. Should make for a fun year here in Korea.

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