Embassy staff admit 'high-handed' treatment of NK defectors in Thailand
Some Korean embassy staff in Thailand had taken a "high-handed" approach during their treatment of North Korean defectors at a refugee camp there, but they strongly denied an allegation of using expletives toward the defectors, Seoul officials said Monday.
Seoul's foreign ministry launched a probe into its embassy staff in Thailand last week, following a published media report that criticized the staff for allegedly "cussing out" North Korean defectors in May last year, citing letters and accounts by two of the defectors who arrived in South Korea this year.
The ministry sent a team of investigators to its embassy in Bangkok on Thursday and interviewed the staff.
"Two female staff admitted that they had made high-handed remarks or used loud voices during their treatment of North Korean defectors, but they strongly denied the allegation of using foul language," said a senior ministry official, who interviewed them as part of the investigation.
However, the two female staff were relieved of duty and a further investigation is underway, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The initial investigation found that there is an "insufficient" treatment system for North Korean defectors there, the official said, adding his ministry plans to improve monitoring on how its embassy officials treat such defectors.
According to the Dong-A-Ilbo report, a 80-something North Korean defector filed a petition with the South Korean ambassador in Bangkok, saying a female embassy staff told him, "Hey, dude, why are you here?" The defector said his petition was ignored.
Tens of thousands of North Korean defectors are believed to be hiding in China, hoping to travel to Thailand or other Southeast Asian countries before resettling in South Korea, home to more than 23,000 North Korean defectors.
Although refugee camps for North Korean defectors in Thailand are operated by the Bangkok government, South Korean officials are allowed to treat them inside the camps under cooperation with Bangkok, Seoul officials said. (Yonhap)