The Philippines as an International Transit Site for North Korean Refugees


During the severe famine that struck North Korea in the 1990s, refugees started flowing out of the country and into neighboring China. The Chinese government, with few exceptions, adheres to a policy that refuses North Korean defectors transit through Chinese territory and deports any found within its borders.  Although many stay in China, some refugees, fearing deportation, elect to make the lengthy and perilous journey to South Korea. Through an analysis of primary news accounts as well as other sources, this paper examines one route taken, in which refugees transit from China to South Korea through the Philippines. For years, the Philippines have quietly been assisting North Korean refugees to reach the relative safety of South Korea. In this, they have followed a tradition of helping refugees and other displaced persons unwanted in other countries.