As the prospect of hunger or even mass starvation looms in North Korea, more people will surely try to escape into China. Will South Korea and the world continue to tolerate China's policy of repatriating these exiles? The deteriorating situation in North Korea -- prompted by global food shortages -- may well be the major event of 2008.
"We're going to try to stop the relay," said refugee Choi Hye-Jeong, who tearfully added she was tortured by North Korean authorities when Chinese officials forced her to return to her country several years ago.
"I get enraged every time I think of what they did to me. I won't let this relay happen as planned," she told Yonhap.
China has sent as many as 18,000 North Korean refugees back to North Korea over the past 15 years according one report. Reports indicate that some of these people have been executed for escaping North Korea. South Korea's past disregard for the fate of escaped North Koreans in China -- justified by the "Sunshine Policy" of the previous government in Seoul -- was a disgrace.
I am afraid the excessive security on the streets of Seoul today could cause the North Korean exiles to resort to drastic and dangerous tactics in order to be heard. There is such a thing as too much security for an event like this. Let us hope nobody gets seriously hurt.