Mongolia open to refugee camp for N. Korean defectors

Kim Ji-ho
The Korea Herald

With China firmly opposed to the establishment of any refugee camp for North Korean escapees, an international activist planning an exodus of defectors from the communist country has claimed that Mongolia has agreed to make room for such a camp. Norbert Vollertsen, a German doctor and activist who helps North Korean escapees, said in an interview with the Radio Free Asia (RFA) that a camp that can accommodate up to 1,200 people would be established in Mongolia or at its border with China.
Vollertsen made the remarks after attending a U.S. Senate hearing on North Korean defectors Friday. He said former Soviet military installations in Mongolia could be used for the refugee facilities, according to the RFA, a Washington-funded radio network.
A camp for North Koreans fleeing poverty, famine and repression in their home land has been suggested by international activists and some U.S. lawmakers as a means to cope with the surging number of asylum seekers in China.
On Saturday, however, Beijing reaffirmed its opposition to such a suggestion.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the proposed establishment of a refugee camp, which was discussed in the Senate hearing.
"The North Koreans are not refugees," the spokesman was quoted as saying.
A South Korean activist said the Mongolian government has yet to make its final decision to give the green light to the refugee camp, but that it will do so sometime soon as the international community has been increasing pressure.
"U.S. Congress and nongovernmental organizations, and other international activists have been urging China and Mongolia to cooperate on the refugee camp issue," said Lee Chul-seung, co-chairman of the National Council for Freedom and Democracy.
Lee said the refugee project should be favored by the Mongolian government, as it would help the nation draw economic aid from the United States and European nations.
"But Mongolia is also worried that the plan might damage its relations with China and North Korea," Lee said.