When I opened the News on Friday morning to the op-ed page and saw a piece titled “Along the border, Chinese pity Koreans,” I knew that it would likely be filled with misleading information and outright lies. I was not disappointed.
There are two basic problems with the article’s thesis: First, the Chinese government’s policy toward North Koreans contravenes the PRC’s international treaty obligations in a manner so inhumane as to be reprehensible and second, the everyday Chinese people who live near the North Korean border engage in a sick practice of exploitation and slavery that can hardly be described as “sympathetic.”
In 1982, as China was starting to re-enter the international system, it became a signatory state to the international treaty on refugees, which clearly states that is incumbent upon all parties to the treaty not to return refugees to countries where they would likely be harmed. North Koreans who escape and are then repatriated are most definitely harmed. They and their entire families are either immediately executed or sent to slave-labor camps to live out the rest of their cursed lives. Thus, not only is China engaged in a particularly inhumane policy against individuals who are not subjects of the PRC, and thus cannot be justified under their normal arguments for despotism, they are in clear violation of their international treaty obligations.
The North Koreans who come to China are not, as the Sinofascists would tell you, “economic migrants.” They have no desire to make a life for themselves in China, a country they have grown to fear and hate because of its policy toward people like them. Their only desire is to get to a free country. Why else does China use its own military to guard the embassies and consulates of foreign countries, a practice unique to totalitarian regimes? In order for a North Korean to make it to freedom he has to make it onto the soil of a country that actually believes in freedom. The only way to do this is by making an “embassy run,” where refugees attempt to make it past the Chinese guards onto the sovereign territory of a friendly country. Often, these efforts fail, except for exceptional cases such as when a video of a family of North Koreans making it onto Japanese soil only to be dragged back by ChiCom goons was released to the international press, thereby embarrassing the Chinese to let the refugees escape to freedom. I see no “sympathy” in the policies here. Perhaps Comrade Su can enlighten me.
But the real crux of the piece was that ordinary Chinese people near the border are sympathetic to the plight of their neighbors, and it is this claim that is the most galling. You see, the PRC offers reward money to anyone who finds a North Korean refugee, and because of this, Chinese farmers near the border spend a good part of their day hunting for starving, scared, innocent people in the hopes that they can return these benighted souls to the hell from which they worked so hard to escape. Of course, some of these people eschew the reward money in favor of capturing the refugees for themselves to use as slaves, often sex slaves.
That, sadly, is not all. One of the many consequences of China’s one-child policy is that there is now a dearth of Chinese women, particularly in the rural areas. As a result, a budding industry has developed where North Korean army officers in collaboration with unscrupulous Chinese businessmen kidnap and sell North Korean women to men in China. The result is that many North Koreans are being imported into China, with the tacit acknowledgment of the Chinese government, to be used as slaves.
When the facts are known, a different picture of the Chinese attitude toward North Korea and North Koreans emerges. China is interested in preserving its relationship with the regime of Kim Jong-Il. Toward this end they have been in constant violation of their international treaty obligations and engaged in a policy, both near the border and in the cities, that is both inhumane and illegal (since parties of treaties must view those treaties as law). Furthermore, the Chinese people, admittedly forced into the position through the sick distortions imposed upon them by the Chinese government, treat the North Koreans who make it across the Yalu River with no compassion and no sympathy, preferring instead to exploit the defenseless and the starving for use as sex slaves. Shame on them, and shame on those who would distort the truth like Su and Diaz.
Matthew Klein is a junior in Berkeley College and recommends that everyone interested in these issues watch the film “Seoul Train” and read the book “The Aquariums of Pyongyang.”