Last week Radio Free Asia broke the story of Bae Jun Sik, a North Korean refugee allegedly assaulted by North Korean agents in Denmark and threatened with decapitation if he did not return home. Steph Haggard was incredulous at the notion that foreign agents—possibly enjoying diplomatic immunity—could attack a refugee: where were the Danish authorities in all this? The story gains even greater salience in the context of North Korean threats of escalatory responses in the Sony hack attack. So now, a bit like Paul Harvey, “stand byyy for newwws!'”
RFA reports that Greg Scarlatoiu, HRNK’s executive director, told its Korean Service that “[Bae] says he went out [of the refugee center] for a cigarette, opened the door for people outside, and they tried to strangle him with a plastic string. His wife heard the noise, screamed, and they ran away.” Scarlatoiu continued that he had spoken with staff at the Hillerod Hospital in Hanstholm who confirmed that Bae “has a broken nose, an injury to his head, and scars on his neck, most likely proof of an attempt to strangle him.”
Threats against Bae began 10 November when he received a threatening text message reading "The motherland forgives you. Return to the loving care of the Party. If you do not, we will not hesitate to cut your head off.”
According to the RFA story, the threats continued even after Bae was moved to a second refugee center:
"The agents harassed and tried to force him to give details of North Korean refugees in Denmark.
‘At the second refugee center we moved to, I was threatened with a knife and dragged to some place, where the agents put me on the phone with someone,’ he said.
‘The person on the phone was a North Korean, and this person asked me how many North Korean refugees there are in Denmark.’
When he refused to answer, he was told, “If you don’t want to die a useless death in some faraway place, come back to North Korea while we are still giving you the chance.””
Bae received another written threat on 12 December: "Wherever you go, we will find you. We know where you are. You will see for yourself the last moments of those who betray the motherland."
This time Bae, who only speaks Korean, reached out to Scarlatoiu who indicated that due to communication difficulties the Danes did not have a very good grasp of the situation, believing initially that Bae had merely been in a scrap with other refugees. Scarlatiou in turn reached out to the Danish Red Cross and Ambassador Bob King who contacted the Danish embassy here in Washington.
Yet even after local police were shown the second written threat, the Danes indicated that they could not provide additional protection.
Scarlatoiu and Roberta Cohen, co-chair of HRNK, then contacted UNHCR's Director in Europe, the Danish Refugee Council, as well as other groups with extensive experience in refugee protection.
What we can say is that Mr. Bae and his wife are in good hands and will spend Christmas in safety. Chalk up one for the good guys.
"And now you know the rest of the story."