Samstag, Januar 08, 2005

Asian Refugee Crisis

Outside the public interest a human tragedy is unfolding in Asia these days. But it has nothing to do with the terrible tsunami that has affected countries of the region on christmas. In fact this tragedy is completely man-made. Who is responsible?

On the one hand we have the North Korean Regime. There have always been many reasons for North Koreans to flee their country. But since the inititation of economic reforms in 2002 the number of refugees has risen. This is due to the growing amount of outside information flowing into the country and exposing the Regimes´ lies. At the same time the economic reforms lead to a huge rise in prices accompanied by only a relativly slight rise in wages, thereby worsening the already bad situation of many North Koreans.

On the other hand we have the South Korean government, at the moment controlled by the left-leaning, anti-american, pro-north-korean URI-party under President Roh Moo-hyun. In order to stop the flow of North Korean refugees into neighbouring Russia and China (from where they often try to get to South Korea) the government has recently undertaken a change in policy, trying to block refugees with a "criminal background" from entering the country and cutting back on the money dispersed to refugees from the north.While this policy is officially justified by stating South Korea just wanted to prevent human smuggling, it is actually clearly aimed at appeasing the North. This comes before the background of a growing consensus in the South Korean public that their main enemy is not the regime of Kim Jong-Il but the USA.

Of course one could also argue that economic interests lie behind all this. The higly modernized economy of South Korea is in desperate need for cheap labor and not even China can provide the low labor costs that North-Korea can these days. Adding to this are geographical proximity and a common language. The starting of production in the North Korean Kaesong Special Economic Zone just some weeks ago highlights this fact.This "Special Economic Zone" is in fact nothing more than a South Korean Economic Outpost in the North. The South provides almost everything (even the electrictiy) while the North provides Cheap Labor for the South Korean firms settling there.Considering this, one can clearly see why the South Korean Government is interested in stabilizing the North Korean Regime, preventing a break-up that could result from a mass exodus of the population like we have seen in germany.

While one can actually argue that a sudden break-up of North Korea could have devastating effects for the whole region and should therefore be averted by all means, one should also consider the effects that can result from stabilizing one of the most criminial and disgusting regimes in the world.Because this also means that people who flee their country because they are poor, hungry and deprived of many basic human rights, are sent back into the arms of a murderous regime, that will probably punish them for their attempted escape.More on the personal effect of the new South Korean policy can be derived from this article in the New York Times.

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