GENEVA (Yonhap) -- A scuffle broke out between a North Korean diplomat and South Korean lawmakers Monday at a U.N. session on the communist nation's human rights abuses.
The clash took place after So Se-pyong, the North's ambassador to its mission in Geneva, flatly denied a U.N. report on Pyongyang's human rights record.
A group of visiting South Korean lawmakers approached him and chanted, "Do not oppress defectors," and "Do not request for China to repatriate (them)."
As the North Korean envoy tried to leave, a brief physical clash occurred between the two sides, with security officials trying to stop the South's lawmakers.
The U.N. Human Rights Council meeting, attended by about 500 delegates from around the world, was delayed for several minutes due to the incident.
Before the confrontation, So described a report by Marzuki Darusman, U.N. special rapporteur on North Korean human rights, as "fabricated."
The issue of North Korean defectors fleeing their totalitarian and hunger-stricken nation has become a hot topic in South Korea following press reports that about 30 North Koreans have been forcefully repatriated or face deportation after being arrested by Chinese authorities.
China regards North Korean defectors merely as economic migrants, not refugees eligible for asylum.
The four-member South Korean parliamentary delegation urged China to stop the repatriation, which it said is a breach of international obligations.
"Repatriation of North Korean defectors is not just a matter concerning Korean people, but it's a matter of infringement of universal human values," said Rep. Kim Hyung-oh, a former parliamentary speaker who led the delegation. "It is regrettable that Chinese authorities have not changed their attitude even though they know what kind of situations North Korean defectors could face when they are sent back to the North."
The delegation includes Rep. Park Sun-young of the conservative minor Liberty Forward Party, who earlier staged a hunger strike to protest Beijing's practice of sending back refugees to the North, where they apparently face harsh punishment.
On Wednesday, the delegation will take part in the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy to hear testimony from North Korean refugees and meet senior U.N. officials. They also plan to hold rallies in front of the U.N. office in Geneva to raise awareness of the issue before returning to South Korea on Thursday.
Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are believed to be in China after crossing their porous border, many hoping to settle in South Korea or other foreign countries.