A refreshing approach, indeed
Diplomatic efforts to reverse China’s decision to repatriate a group of North Korean defectors remain deadlocked even as a South Korean politician from the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party was in the midst of staging a hunger strike with the backing of human rights activists protesting in front of the Chinese embassy in Seoul.
In the National Assembly, the conservatives are exchanging spiteful words with the opposition for being reluctant to put political pressure on China.
But a different form of protest has come into the spotlight. Some 40 South Korean entertainers held a concert on Sunday to join the rising chorus against China’s decision to repatriate the 24 North Korean defectors in custody. The “Cry with Us” concert was led by actor Cha In-pyo, who starred as a North Korean defector in the 2008 movie “Crossing,” and his actress wife Shin Ae-ra. It also included the participation of veteran as well as young singers who hitherto had not been involved in politics, including Yoon Bok-hee, No Sa-youn, Ivy and Hwang Bo.
Celebrity participation in politics is nothing new. Entertainers have become more vocal about their political preferences and outspoken on sensitive issues. But the recent celebrity action, along with the event to aid North Korean defectors is something new. Many of the entertainers who participated in the event are known to have been quietly supporting children from underdeveloped nations and engaged in other charity work.
The statement read during the concert contained nothing political against the South Korean or Chinese governments for doing too little. Instead, their words and performances carried their sincere concern for the lives of the North Korean defectors and a plea for more interest in the defectors’ plight. The celebrities plan to continue with similar events at home and abroad to raise awareness of the North Korean defectors’ rights.
Conflicts over human rights cannot be resolved overnight. They will continue to exist in the world regardless of efforts to resolve them. But human rights should not become a subject of political stunts or self-serving interests. Instead, we must continue to pay attention and join forces to address and solve the problems. That is why the entertainers’ campaign to raise awareness about the North Korean defectors from the viewpoint of human rights rather than politics comes across as so refreshing.