The White House expressed concern, Thursday, for China’s deportation of a North Korean woman taking refuge there.
"The United States is gravely concerned about China's treatment of Kim Chun-hee," says White House spokesman, Scott McPhellan, in a statement released at the Mexican resort in Cancun, where U.S. president George W. Bush will meet with Mexican president Vicente Fox and Canada Prime Minister Steve Harper.
"Ms. Kim, an asylum seeker in her 30s, was deported to North Korea after being arrested in December for seeking refuge at two Korean schools in China," McClellan said. "We are deeply concerned about Ms. Kim's well-being."
Kim, who had been hiding at a South Korean-run school, was deported despite appeals made toward Beijing by South Korean and United States officials.
Last week, the head of the U.N. refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, denounced the repatriation of North Korean refugees and asked for China to create legislation that would allow them to receive asylum.
Between 30,000 and 300,000 North Korean refugees make the dangerous border crossing to escape hunger, poverty, political and religious suppression. The current Chinese policy of repatriating North Koreans, labeled as illegal migrants, often leaves refugees in danger of imprisonment once at home.
North Korean prisoners are often subjected to barbaric abuses, being worked to death while residing in subhuman standards. Christian persecution watchdogs report that Christians are often the target of public executions.
March 1, Christian fellowships and organizations including Open Doors, China Aid Association, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Promise Keepers, North Korean Freedom Coalition and Korean Church coalition announced an international multi-agency prayer initiative for North Korea to be held Jun. 19 thru 25.
Pyongyang, known as the Jerusalem of the East until 1948, once boasted the largest population of Christians in Korea. When North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung took power, most Christians fled south or were hunted down and killed. The few churches that remain are now staffed by actors for the benefit of foreign visitors, according to a recent report released by the Oslo-based human rights monitor group, Forum 18.
Efforts to reach North Korea by Christians in South Korea and elsewhere continue. Some Christians have been known to release balloons bearing Bible-study tracks from the South Korean side. A few courageous individuals have attempted to make contact by evangelizing to North Koreans refugees in northeast China.