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2013/06/05 15:41 KST
During the six-day visit, Kim plans to meet with officials from the Lao government, the governing Lao People’s Revolutionary Party and the South Korean embassy in Vientiane to discuss the recent repatriation case and other issues related to North Korean defectors in the country.
“The party has great influence in Laos, so my visit is a form of diplomacy between our parties,” Kim said. “I will ask the party to ensure that North Korean defectors, such as the teenagers who were recently sent back, are not repatriated again.”
The nine defectors were sent back to North Korea via China last week, after being rounded up in Laos early last month en route to South Korea.
The case has drawn intense media and public attention in South Korea amid concerns that the defectors, aged 14 to 18, could face harsh punishment and even execution in their communist homeland.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled their homeland in recent decades to escape political oppression and chronic poverty. Many of them travel through China, Thailand, Laos and other Southeast Asian countries before resettling in the South, now home to more than 25,000 North Korean defectors.