Hundreds of North Korean Defectors Disappear After Being Deported

( – A human rights group in Seoul has warned that as many as 600 North Korean defectors have vanished after they were forcibly deported from China in October and repatriated to the North, Reuters reported.

A report from the Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG) warns that the possible defectors could face imprisonment, torture, and execution now that they have been sent back.

South Korea lodged an official protest with Beijing in October over the suspected forced repatriation of a large number of North Koreans who were attempting to flee the North.

However, China’s Foreign Ministry denied the claim that the North Koreans were defectors, saying that North Koreans had illegally crossed into China for economic reasons and were dealt with according to the law.

According to the TJWG report, hundreds of defectors were transported from Chinese detention centers in guarded vans and buses and driven across the border into North Korea on October 9, in what the group described as the largest mass repatriation in years.

While the identity of the defectors is not known, most of them are women, according to the TJWG report. The human rights group said there has been no communication with the defectors since they were sent back to North Korea.

TJWG warned that for the defectors forcibly returned, North Korea would brand them as traitors and criminals, leaving them subject to torture, “gender-based violence,” forced abortions, internment in concentration camps, and even execution.

While state-run media in North Korea has not commented on the October incident, the North has long denounced those who defect as “human scum.”

The number of defectors arriving in South Korea hit an all-time low during the pandemic after the North sealed its borders. Since then, Pyongyang has lifted some pandemic restrictions and resumed travel and trade with China.

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