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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #245: September 2, 2004

N Koreans Storm Japanese School

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

"N Koreans Storm Japanese School"


When the first time it happens, it makes a breaking news, and hits the headlines of newspapers, followed by analyses and comments on magazines, and serves as a conversation piece for a while. Then, after experiencing a number of similar incidents, they become a part of everyday affair.

As reported in the article, 29 North Korean defectors broke into a Japanese school in Beijing, seeking their asylum and eventual passage to a third country, presumably South Korea. The personnel and the pupils of the school were not harmed, and obviously the defectors had no intention of such, but an eruption of some sort of confusion could have made the result different.

In the last couple of years, there have been a number of incidents of North Koreans fleeing from poverty in their country, seeking refuge in foreign embassies and consulates, and schools in China. In May 2002, five North Koreans tried to enter the Japanese Consulate-General in Shenyang but were stopped and dragged off by Chinese police, which ignited an uproar of anger among supporters of North Korean defectors against the Japanese Consulate. Last year, four defectors gained entry to another Japanese school in Beijing, and eventually reached Seoul via Singapore, with some hassle along the way in seeking a solution. This time, the Japanese Embassy staff quietly accepted the defectors while notifying the Chinese authorities, as if the whole procedure has become routine.

The number of defectors is the largest this time among similar incidents, but, while the news was carried in every major media, it did not make the headlines in majority of them.

In July, more than four hundred North Korean defectors were transferred from an Asian country - never been officially disclosed but believed to be Vietnam - to South Korea. In what is believed to be a response, North Korea recalled its ambassador from Vietnam, which was revealed only a few days ago. Other reports say up to 300,000 North Koreans are hiding in China, and hundreds of others are in various South East Asian countries, waiting for a chance to go to South Korea.

Just by looking at the numbers, of people assumed to be seeking refuge, and the number of recent incidents reporting such real attempts - it should be noted that there could be a significant number of failed attempts behind each successful escape reported - it is only logical to assume that a large chunk of people in North Korea do not want to be there. This assumption, if stands, alone would be sufficient to denounce North Korea as a barbaric state, whereas basic laws of every modern nation allows their citizens to abandon the country if so desired.

Some analysts point to the situation in North Korea to resemble that of East Germany a few years before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. People, even after losing faith in their own regime, may be confined within the borders through utilization of force. But once some begin to successfully get away, the desire to escape could revive and spread among people, and then there would be no guarantee that the momentum could be broken.

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