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Footage of two terrified North Korean defectors being forcibly dragged across the border where they were reportedly executed has sparked outrage in South Korea.
The two fishermen tried to get into their Democratic southern neighbors after they were accused of killing 16 shipmates in a fight over a violent captain.
Photos have now surfaced of the moment when the pair were pulled back toward the dictatorship they were trying to flee, where North Korean officials waited in vehicles on the other side of the demilitarized zone, in 2019.
The men were reportedly executed this week for treason in North Korea, although this has not been independently confirmed.
South Korea’s presidential office yesterday denounced the repatriation, accusing the previous government led by Moon Jae-in of a possible “crime against humanity” before the deportation.
Two terrified North Korean defectors were forcibly dragged back across the border and executed after being rounded up by South Korean officials
According to the North Korea Human Rights Committee, it was the first deportation since the Korean ceasefire of 1953.
Human rights groups and South Korean politicians say the men would never have received a fair trial and even suggested the talks were politically motivated for Moon to conduct peace talks with Kim Jong-un.
“If they have been forcibly repatriated north, even if they have expressed their will to defect, it is a crime against humanity that has violated both international law and the constitution,” said Kang In-sun, spokeswoman by President Yoon Suk-yeol.
She vowed that the Yoon government would discover the truth behind the decision, as South Korean prosecutors have reopened an investigation into the case.
The government of then President Moon Jae-in called the fishermen “dangerous criminals who would threaten the safety of South Koreans.”
The men were reportedly executed this week for treason in North Korea, again this has not been independently confirmed
Moon has not responded to the renewed allegations and Reuters was unable to immediately trace the contact details.
But opposition lawmaker Yoon Kun-young, who served as head of Moon’s situation chamber, defended the move as legal and in the national interest.
“President Yoon, are you saying we should have let the grotesque murderers get away with their crime and protect them with our own people’s tax dollars?” he wrote on Facebook.
He was one of eight lawmakers to issue a statement accusing the Yoon government of reopening the case to undermine political enemies.
Human rights activists have condemned the repatriation, and a UN investigator said South Korea likely violated the men’s rights by evading the legal system’s obligation to associate with them rather than deport the men.
Although their fate has not been confirmed, there was an expectation that their rights would be violated if they were handed over to North Korean authorities, said Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN investigator, in Seoul last month. read more
According to North Korea’s Human Rights Committee, it was the first such deportation since the Korean War ceasefire of 1953
“The desperate resistance of the two men to being pushed back, which can be seen so clearly in those photos, shows that they understood that they were fighting for their lives,” Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch in New York said in a statement.
“Moon Jae-in and his officials knew that too, and yet they sent them back.”
Robertson accused Moon of “being so desperate to please North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un” that he “shamefully ignored the basic principles of human rights and humanity.”
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said: The Telegraph: ‘The desperate resistance of the two men to forced repression, which can be seen so clearly in those photos, shows that they understood that they were fighting for their lives.
“Clearly, Moon Jae-in’s government was so desperate to please North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un that it shamefully ignored the basic principles of human rights and humanity, and that’s exactly what they did.” by pushing these two men back to the North.’
South Korean prosecutors have opened an investigation into the case and there is also a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s actions.
A group of South Korean lawyers has even pledged to file a complaint against the former president for attempted murder.