Wolfowitz: We Must Help North Korea's Refugees

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2009 8:09 AM CDT
North Korean asylum seekers sit inside the Detention Center at the Immigration Headquarters in Bangkok in this Aug. 24, 2006 file photo.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, FILE)
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(Newser) – When President Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak meet today, they will discuss a host of security and economic issues, but Paul Wolfowitz hopes they take some time out for a purely humanitarian concern: North Korea’s refugees. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled to China, but “China makes life extraordinarily difficult for refugees,” he writes in the Wall Street Journal.

What’s needed is an international settlement effort, like the Indochinese refugee rescue of the 1970s. At present South Korea settles roughly 2,000 North Koreans a year, but the US has welcomed a paltry 81 since 2000. China is reluctant to help, because it fears angering Pyongyang. But if the US and South Korea proceed quietly, enlist other countries, and remind China that it signed the UN refugee protocol, Wolfowitz says we can help these people.