Would A Stitch In Time Have Saved the Nine?

If you have been keeping track at all, then you know that tension has been high recently on the Korean peninsula. Things seemed to cool down a bit when the yearly main US – South Korean joint military exercises ended last April 30 (although an additional “river-crossing” drill was held just a few days ago – you can never get enough training!). But now there is this.

Le sort de neuf jeunes provoque des tensions avec la Corée du Nord #droitsdelhomme http://t.co/s22AvQCRCu



Le sort de neuf jeunes: the fate of nine young people. Understandably, inmates of North Korea are trying to escape from there all the time, and what this is about is nine young people aged 14 to 18 who succeeded in getting as far away as Laos – which then promptly arrested them for illegal entry into the country and deported them back to North Korea (while arresting two South Koreans found with them and charging them with human trafficking, before releasing them to their embassy).

Life looks very grim for these folks now that they are back in North Korea, where it’s doubtful that that regime recognizes the concept of minors being held less to account for their “crimes.” One “work camp” or another awaits them, for sure, but Amnesty International maintains that they are likely to be expressly tortured as well. The piece to which the tweet links claims that, up to now, Laos had been considered by those fleeing North Korea as safe territory, in which you would be left alone to find your way to South Korea, and further mentions how the UN officially expressed its concern about these refugees last week.

More to the point, though, many South Koreans are angry about what has happened to these nine, specifically about what they see as the unhelpful attitude taken by the South Korean embassy in Vientiane (Laos’ capital) when they were still in that country. That is likely what moved South Korean president Park Geun-Hye* to recently state:

The most important thing is to guarantee their lives and their security, and to make sure that they will not be punished unjustly. North Korea cannot otherwise avoid international criticism and its responsibility in the realm of human rights.

All of this brings a number of questions to my mind:

  • The horse has left the barn: those nine are now back in North Korea, a horrible fate awaits them all, so how can President Park really think that anything she says or does could really help them any more?
  • If we accept that any such attempts are hopeless, then why is she even trying, in view of the recent sustained high tension between the two Koreas and their allies that the world fortunately just managed to get through without there being any major sort of military incident? Why prod the North Korean mad-dog further?
  • Finally, I suppose – er, did all this really happen? I’m assuming that it did, but what brings doubt to my mind is that I only saw this tweet/news report about it from a Luxembourgish newspaper, L’Essentiel. No, there is NO mention on the NYT site, on WaPo, or anywhere else I can find – how did the main pillars of the Western press miss this?

Old proverb: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

New proverb: If a tree falls in the forest, but only a Luxembourg paper bothers to report the fact, can we even agree that it makes a sound?

* It’s a she, BTW, a female president of South Korea, and the daughter of the military dictator who ruled the country in the 1970s, until he was assassinated in 1979. Click through to the article if you’d like a picture of her up at the speaker’s podium.

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