South Korean legislators on Friday condemned China’s repatriation of fugitives from North Korea after Beijing reportedly sent nine back despite pleas from Seoul.
A resolution passed by the committee on foreign affairs and unification urges China to follow international rules in handling North Koreans who flee their impoverished homeland, and seeks outside help to halt the returns. [AFP]
Seoul says it might (gasp) raise this with the U.N. Human Rights Council — without mentioning China by name. But despite all the recent hyperventilations about alleged U.S. unilateralism, no nation has does so much to make the U.N. ineffective, or done it so deliberately, as China. When I see activists gathering the support of lawyers, judges, and governments to draft and serve indictments against Bashar Asad for crimes against humanity, I envy their creativity and their ability to attract media interest. Good luck getting that idea past the likes of Glyn Davies and Wendy Sherman. It isn’t that any of this would have real legal effect, of course. The idea is that if the public reaction is sufficiently intense to harm Chinese diplomatic and economic interests, China will hesitate to do this again. And it’s almost a sure thing that Hu Jintao has murdered as many North Koreans through his decisions as Bashar Asad has murdered Syrians through his. The problem is that the outrage of most South Koreans has a selective blind spot when it comes to North Koreans.
Let me ask a hypothetical question: if the United States, with malice aforethought, abetted the murder of nine Korean civilians, how long do you suppose it would take for the streets to fill with angry mobs with candles and red headbands? Is there any question that that would be the principal issue in the next South Korean election? If that happened, I wouldn’t even rule out the possibility that our embassy would be ransacked. I don’t think race explains this double standard, because Koreans would have the same reaction if Japan did this. There probably isn’t just one explanation, but one of them is the inner conviction of the mobs that they have nothing to fear from America or Japan. In spite of this, I suppose protesting at the U.S. Embassy can make you feel very brave. But an angry protest against China? Why, that would take actual courage.
Finally, can anyone find any reports on this controversy by the Associated Press? For that matter, I can’t find an example of a Reuters story about this issue, either. Both of those services have prominently covered a meeting between Glyn Davies and the North Korean Foreign Minister, despite almost universally low expectations for that meeting. I wonder if this could have anything to do with the “relationships” the AP and Reuters have with the Korea Central News Agency, North Korea’s official “news” service. The AFP, the New York Times, the BBC, and the L.A. Times have all covered this story, which has caused the President of South Korea make a personal appeal to the Chinese government. None of them have relationships with KCNA. Reuters and the AP could refute my suspicions, of course, by covering this story. It will be telling if they don’t.