Rep. Park Sun-young, right, of the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party, shakes hands with a North Korean defector who gave a performance for the opening ceremony of the North Korea Freedom Week at the Memorial Hall of the National Assembly on April 23. Yonhap
By Kim Jung-yoon
Rep. Park Sun-young of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party (LFP) and an outspoken critic of North Korea`s human rights abuses, has ended her 77-day protest against the repatriation of North Korean defectors detained in China.
Park has been holding rallies in front of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul since February. She staged a hunger strike for 10 days and appealed to the U.N. Human Rights Council to urge China stop the deportation of the refugees.
“I am holding the last press conference to end the campaign at the request of local residents, churches and the police. This protest ends here, but I will continue to fight to prevent the repatriation and to promote the rights of North Korean people worldwide,” said Park who has been the most vocal among local politicians on the issue.
Park’s campaign drew attention from foreigners and foreign media, such as CNN, BBC, NHK as well as overseas Koreans who attended the rally. A petition collected 220,000 signatures in protest against China’s forcible repatriation of defectors.
“I appreciate those who gave their support for the past 77 days, and from now on I will put my utmost effort to strengthen international networks to ban the deportation of defectors back to the North,” Park told reporters during a news conference in front of the embassy.
From today, Park said there will not be an official gathering, but individual silent protests will be held all day. Park also spoke of her plans to establish a corporation in honor of children, youth defectors and the prisoners of war (POWs), who have safely escaped.
At a candlelight vigil commemorating the 77-day protest, a female defector who lost both her feet, expressed deep sense of gratitude to Rep. Park who had provided her with hospital treatment as well as surgeries and artificial legs.
North Koreans are escaping the impoverished country every day, across the heavily guarded border to mainland China to avoid persecution and starvation. The escapees face death, if returned to their homeland. Park has been calling the repatriations tantamount to murder.
Park’s actions moved celebrities to hold concerts in support of the refugees as well as to speak up to defend their human rights. Among others Liz Mitchell, one of the original members and lead singer of Boney M, the German-based group from the 1970s disco era, held concerts in Seoul two weeks ago.
“I did not expect to receive such a response when I first staged here. China is now slowly changing its attitude toward North Korean human rights in the international community and halted repatriation,” said the determined lawmaker, pointing to that as the most significant accomplishment.
Rep. Park Sun-young will shortly resign as a lawmaker to teach at Dongguk University as a law professor and to continue her career as an activist.