China Tightens Stance on North Korean Refugees

After a period of relative tolerance, the Chinese government has tightened its “hunt” for North Koreans fleeing the dictatorship in Pyongyang.

The border authorities near the Tumen River, the border that divides China and North Korea, have issued a “bounty list” related to refugees: anyone who reports on refugees gets 1000 yuan (about 120 euro); anyone who personally captures a refugee is rewarded with twice that amount. Meanwhile, those who help a refugee and are discovered will be fined three thousand yuan. The border guards have also been ordered to shoot fugitives on sight.

For North Koreans who choose to flee their country, there is a huge risk. Beijing has recently signed an agreement with Pyongyang that defines these refugees as “economic migrants”, and does not grant them any leniency. Forced to pass through China, if they are captured, they will be sent back to  North Korea, where they risk the death penalty or a decade of hard labour for “treason”.

According to an anonymous source from DailyNK, in the first seven months of 2016, the North Korean government executed at least 60 of its citizens in public. Of these, half would have been imposed on citizens who were caught trying to leave the country.

Since the division of the peninsula, the South Korean Catholic Church has worked to help refugees, who are called “Saeteomin” (“settlers of the new earth”). Catholics in the South offer programmes including social inclusion, language courses and “political renovation” for the refugees, as well as helping the refugees to find jobs.

  • Pray for Christians and other religious minorities in North Korea, who make up a high percentage of those seeking to leave the country. Many face intense persecution, imprisonment and death if they remain, as well as the risk of capture and death if they are caught leaving.
  • Pray for Chinese authorities to relent and soften their attitude to North Korean refugees, allowing them to stay in China and ultimately to find refuge in the West.
  • Pray for Christian organisations seeking to help North Korean refugees on the border with China and within South Korea. Pray for wisdom, protection for their workers and that they will be channels of God’s love, grace and healing to these desperate people.
  • Pray for a move of the Holy Spirit across North Korea, for softening of hearts Theamongst those in power, and for many to have life changing encounters with Jesus Christ.

Psalm 10 vs 17 – 18: “O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear  to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more


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