WASHINGTON – The case of a Chinese man who reportedly rode his private watercraft into the muddy shores of South Korea’s western port metropolis of Incheon might pose a dilemma for Seoul, specialists stated.
Kwon Pyong, a 35-year-old ethnic Korean believed to be an activist identified to talk in opposition to the authoritarian authorities of China, reportedly crossed greater than 300 kilometers of the Yellow Sea from the Chinese province of Shandong, apparently searching for asylum in South Korea.
He was arrested for unlawful entry on Aug. 16 when he arrived at a seaside in Incheon, carrying a life vest and helmet and outfitted with a compass, binoculars and gasoline canisters, the South Korean Incheon coast guard stated in a press release launched on Aug. 20.
Kwon is being held on the Incheon District Prosecutor’s Office whereas present process investigation, the South Korean Incheon coast guard authorities advised VOA’s Korean Service on Thursday.
The coast guard authorities in Incheon additionally advised VOA’s Korean Service that Kwon ‘didn’t point out about searching for asylum or refuge’ throughout their investigations.
South Korea’s Ministry of Justice advised VOA’s Korean Service on Thursday it’s inappropriate to supply details about an ongoing investigation.
The Justice Ministry additionally stated details about whether or not Kwon has utilized for asylum ‘can’t be disclosed’ primarily based on worldwide refugee legislation.
Experts stated if Kwon is searching for asylum in South Korea or requesting South Korea to permit him to go to an asylum-providing nation, it might put Seoul in an ungainly place, probably additional straining its ties with Beijing.
China has been sad about Seoul’s trilateral financial and safety agreements made with Washington and Tokyo on the Camp David summit in August.
Andrew Yeo, the SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies on the Brookings Institution, stated, “If the ROK government gives asylum to Mr. Kwon, it will certainly face some form of diplomatic backlash from Beijing with Beijing interpreting Seoul’s move as a violation of [its] own sovereign domestic law.” South Korea’s official title is the Republic of Korea (ROK).
When Kwon arrived in Incheon, he was reportedly nonetheless beneath Beijing’s exit ban, which was positioned on him in 2018 when he was launched from jail in China.
VOA’s Korean Service contacted the Chinese Foreign Ministry for touch upon Kwon’s arrival in Incheon however didn’t obtain a reply.
Robert Rapson, who served as cost d’affaires and deputy chief of mission on the U.S. Embassy in Seoul from 2018-21 stated, ‘This case doubtlessly may very well be very awkward for the ROK relying on how large a problem Beijing desires to make of it.’
Rapson continued, ‘However, given the Yoon administration’s robust value-based coverage, I see little probability that Kwon shall be returned to China, assuming he qualifies as an asylum seeker’ and if he’s searching for refuge.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol prioritizes a rules-based worldwide order and democratic values of freedom and human rights in his authorities’s nationwide safety technique.
Evans Revere, who served because the performing assistant secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs through the George W. Bush administration, stated, ‘If Mr. Kwon is definitely a rights activist and genuinely needs to hunt political asylum, then I believe that the Korean authorities ought to deal with his utility irrespective of any potential diplomatic repercussion it could have for relations with the PRC.’ China’s official title is the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The U.S. immigration workplace advised VOA’s Korean Service that it ‘gives safety to sure individuals who’ve been persecuted or have a well-found concern of persecution.’
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada additionally advised VOA’s Korean that ‘Canada has a robust custom of providing safety to those that are susceptible and in want.’
According to South Korean human rights activist Lee Dae-seon, who has identified Kwon since 2019 and was allowed to talk with him on Aug. 22 whereas he was held by the coast guard, Kwon is searching for political asylum in international locations such because the U.S., U.Ok., or Canada, as reported by The Washington Post.
Lee posted on Facebook on Aug. 21 saying he acquired a message from Kwon on Aug. 14 revealing his plans to go to South Korea. Lee continued that when Kwon arrived in Incheon, he referred to as 119, the South Korean equal of 911, to report that he had entered South Korea.
Lee additionally stated that Kwon was born in China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in 1988. This is an enclave of ethnic Koreans in Jilin, a northeastern Chinese province bordering North Korea and Russia.
Lee added that Kwon graduated from Iowa State University within the U.S. in 2012. When Kwon returned to China after his research, he started lodging complaints in opposition to the Chinese authorities’s political surveillance system, Lee stated on Facebook.
According to Frontline Defenders, a human rights group in Dublin, Kwon was imprisoned in China for 18 months for ‘inciting subversion of state energy’ along with his activism work together with posting on his social media speeches, photographs and video ‘insulting state authority and the socialist system.’ He was launched in 2018, in line with the group.
Kwon was reportedly banned from leaving China after his launch.
Gu Yi, a Chinese activist and doctoral pupil on the University of Georgia who stated he is aware of Kwon, advised VOA’s Mandarin Service that Kwon had stated he ‘was repeatedly monitored and intimidated by the Chinese authorities.’
Yi continued, ‘I’m truly nonetheless anxious as a result of though he has already arrived in South Korea, he nonetheless must undergo sure authorized procedures.’
Yi added, ‘He is a well known dissident who as soon as paid the value of his freedom for criticizing an authoritarian regime.’
The South Korean Justice Ministry advised VOA’s Korean Service that an individual is interviewed extensively after making use of for a refugee standing.
‘A choice to grant an individual a refugee standing shall be thought-about after evaluating the reliability of the particular person’s testimony made throughout interviews to see whether or not or not the particular person truly has been persecuted and shall be persecuted upon a return to his or her personal nation,’ stated the ministry.
Ethan Hee-Seok Shin, a authorized analyst on the Transitional Justice Working Group in Seoul, stated, ‘Whether he’s truly granted the refugee standing or ‘humanitarian sojourner’ standing will rely upon the asylum-seeking course of beneath South Korean legislation though he seems to have a robust case,’ if Kwon is in truth searching for asylum.
A humanitarian sojourner beneath the Refugee Act of South Korea is a foreigner who’s ‘granted a keep allow from the Minister of Justice as prescribed by Presidential Decree as an individual who has rational grounds for recognizing that his or her life, private liberty, and so forth. may be very more likely to be infringed by torture or different inhumane therapy.’
Shin continued, ‘Usually, a foreigner getting into South Korea with no visa or different authorized authorization is a felony offense beneath the Immigration Act.’ However, he stated, ‘The Refugee Convention prohibits punishment for the illegal entry of a refugee.’
Shin stated that in March, the South Korean Supreme Court upheld the Refugee Convention and quashed a felony conviction in opposition to an Iranian refugee who had solid journey paperwork to enter South Korea.
Stella Hsu of VOA Mandarin and Eunjung Cho of VOA Korean contributed to this report.