NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 17, 2005

It is imperative that the Republic of Korea (ROK) -- for legal, moral and entirely practical reasons -- accept the challenge posed by the distress of North Korean escapees. These escapees will constitute a living bond across the divided peninsula, and because they will be well treated in the South, it will be a bond of healing, says Nicholas Eberstadt, a founding member of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

Indeed, says Eberstadt, rescuing and embracing the escapees will send a multiplicity of signals to the North, all of them propitious, including:

  • Northerners are truly regarded in the South as long-lost brothers and automatically qualify for ROK citizenship.
  • South Korea is not the "Hell on Earth" they have been taught to fear this past half century and more.
  • Escapees will have a real alternative; a humanistic liberal democracy awaits on the other side of the DMZ.
  • Pressure will build for more humane rule in the North as the people of North Korea learn the fate of escapees to the South.

History proves, over time, the integration of refugees works remarkably well. Refugees and their descendents become loyal and productive citizens, proud supporters of democracy and active participants in the economy.

Not wanting to provoke or undermine North Korea, the ROK diligently neglects reports that might morally obligate them to act. But with the passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004, the United States agreed to share the burden and now its time for South Korea to follow suit and adopt an active stance, says Eberstadt.

Source: Nicholas Eberstadt, "Bring Them Home: Why South Korea Should Open Its Doors to Refugees From the North," Weekly Standard, Volume 10, Issue 36, June 6, 2005.

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