North Korean Orphans Flee to China

08/03/2012 - Fifty North Korean orphans have left their homes and are now in hiding in China, says a South Korean political figure.

A South Korean official has reported that 50 orphaned children from North Korea have fled Hyesan city to China.

China’s immigration policy holds that defectors from North Korea are returned to their homeland. Because of this, says South Korean Member of Parliament, Sun Young, the children have remained in hiding since they fled on February 29th.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that 20 children fled the same orphanage but were caught by border guards before they reached China. The children were reported to have been badly beaten for the transgression.

Well-known human rights group, Amnesty International, has urged Chinese authorities not to send asylum seekers back to North Korea.

According to the AFP, more than 20,000 North Koreans have fled the country since the Korean War of 1950-53.

Last week, the country announced that it would suspend its uranium enrichment programme and missile tests, allowing United Nations (UN) inspectors to return. These requirements were conditions paced upon the country by the United States for resuming talks that would determine the provision of foreign aid to North Korea.

For years, North Korea has been beset by poverty and malnutrition. Today, it was decided that 240,000 tonnes of food aid would be provided to the country.

North Korea launched its first appeal for food aid in the mid-1990s, when famine killed hundreds of thousands of people. Four years ago, the World Food Programme (WFP) stated that hunger reached its most severe point since the famine in the 1990s. In 2008, between five and six million people required food assistance.

Only last year, a WFP assessment showed that a quarter of the population would need food assistance. In October, the Reuters AlertNet humanitarian news team captured footage of malnourished orphans in North Korea’s South Hwsnghaw province after harvests failed from flooding and a harsh winter.

In addition to food shortages, medical staff reported that they lacked medicines and drugs.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), many North Korean families eat only two meals a day and lack basic nutrients. As many as 40 per cent of children living in rural areas have had their physical growth stunted from poor nutrition.