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South Korea is under increasing pressure to reopen the case of North Korean fishermen who were deported

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  Members of South Korea's ruling party and human rights activists are asking the government to reop...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English -  Members of South Korea's ruling party and human rights activists are asking the government to reopen a 2019 case about the repatriation of two North Korean fishermen. They say that the previous government tried to make nice with Pyongyang by closing the case.

President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May. During the election campaign, he said that his predecessor Moon Jae-policy in's toward North Korea was "submissive," and he promised to do more to help people who left the country.

Yoon's ruling party lawmakers, activists, and conservative supporters have called for a re-investigation of the fishermen's case. They say that Moon violated the men's constitutional and human rights while trying to improve relations with Pyongyang, which has called defectors "human scum."

The Moon government sent the fishermen back to North Korea, calling them "dangerous criminals" who killed 16 of their fellow fishermen on their boat while crossing the sea border. They said that if they were allowed to stay in South Korean society, they would cause trouble.

At the time, officials said that there was a "unfortunate event" between the crewmen because the captain was rude. They didn't say what happened, though.

But Yoon's party, defectors, and human rights groups have criticised the decision, saying that it puts the lives of the fishermen in danger and goes against the constitution of South Korea, which says that all North Koreans are South Korean citizens.

We don't know what happened to the two men, but if they were caught or sent back to their country, they could have been publicly executed.

"Defection is a serious crime in North Korea, but the South Korean government called them murderers in public and sent them back even though they wanted to stay," said Tae Young-ho, a former North Korean diplomat who now works for Yoon's party as a lawmaker.

"The two young men were probably killed because they were accused of both deserting and killing."

Yoon said this week that the case is being looked into by his government because "so many people" have brought it up.

An official from the South's Unification Ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said that the decision to send the man back was "clearly wrong," and he promised to work with a prosecutor's office in Seoul that is re-examining the case.

"It might be a crime," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter was so sensitive. "They are South Korean citizens by law, so given the punishments they would face there, we should have taken them in."

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