North Korean diplomats resist order to send children back home

Joong Ang Daily
Chang Se-jeong and Ser Myo-ja

An order from Pyongyang directing North Korean diplomats in overseas posts to send their children back home has been met with defiance, sources in Beijing said yesterday. Pyongyang has extended the deadline for sending the children home until the end of this month in the face of the diplomats’ reluctance to obey.

On March 6, the JoongAng Ilbo reported that the communist Workers’ Party of North Korea had issued the order in February, but no explanation was provided. Under the order, children over the age of five were to go back to the North by the end of March.

A businessman in Beijing who has extensive contacts with North Korea said yesterday that the deadline has been extended because diplomats are demanding more time to complete paperwork for the forced homecomings.

In fact, they appear to be trying to resist. “Some are trying their best to make their kids an exception by using personal ties, and others are trying to delay the return as much as possible,” the businessman said.

Another source in Beijing said “diplomats were feeling insecure that their children may not be able to leave the country ever again after going back.”

About 3,000 children of North Korean diplomats in 50 countries are affected by the order.

Yonhap News Agency also reported the rare challenge by the diplomats to their dictatorial regime. “North Korea has reportedly dispatched Kim Chang-kyu, a vice foreign minister, to China, where such resistance has been most visible, to survey actual conditions and sentiments of its diplomats there,” Yonhap reported.

The report also quoted an anonymous source as saying that none of the North Korean diplomats in China have sent their kids back home.

While it was unclear why the North decided to place such strict controls on the diplomats’ children, sources in Beijing speculate that the reason could be related to fears that the children could become a destabilizing force due to their contact with the world beyond the reclusive communist country.

The North Korean leadership is concerned that these children may inform their North Korean friends and relatives about life in the outside world, said another businessman.

It is not the first time that the North has summoned its citizens home. After the fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the North ordered all its overseas students to return home.

N Korea envoys ‘keeping children’

North Korean diplomats stationed overseas are reportedly refusing an order to send their children home, according to South Korean media.

The order was issued earlier this year in an apparent attempt to stop defections from the hardline regime.

It said diplomats should send all but one of their children back to North Korea by the end of March.

But South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said diplomats were resisting the order, in an “unprecedented” move.

Yonhap quoted an unnamed source as saying the incident could trigger a “major political scandal”, given how unusual it is for North Korea’s ruling Communist Party to be disobeyed.

Old regulation

Diplomatic postings are highly sought-after jobs in North Korea, and are only given to the most loyal supporters of the regime.

But analysts say that once overseas, diplomats’ exposure to foreign thinking brings them under official suspicion in secretive North Korea.

Earlier this year the regime revived an old regulation which said that diplomats posted overseas could only take one child with them, Yonhap reported.

The regulation was suspended in 2002, allowing diplomats to take out many more children.

North Korea now wants the children sent home, and there are reports that hundreds of children could be affected.

Yonhap’s source said opposition to the move was particularly strong among North Koreans living in China, the North’s closest ally.

The reports said that diplomats in China had yet to send a single child back to North Korea, prompting the despatch of a senior official from Pyongyang to Beijing to investigate.

NKorea Orders Return of Diplomats’ Kids

North Korea has ordered its diplomats stationed overseas to send their children back to the communist nation in an apparent attempt to prevent the diplomats from defecting, a news report said Tuesday.

About 3,000 children aged 5 and older must return home within 30 days, according to the order issued last month by North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party. Younger children are exempt from the order, which was reported by South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo.

The measure is believed to be aimed at preventing defections by diplomats and their families by raising the possibility that their children might be persecuted, the newspaper said.

Yonhap news agency carried a similar report, but said each diplomat would be allowed to bring one child to their overseas post. It cited an unidentified South Korean government official.

An official at South Korea’s Unification Ministry, the main government agency dealing with North Korean affairs, said it was checking the reports. The reports did not say what prompted North Korea to take the measure. There have been no known defections by North Korean diplomats in recent months.


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