SEOUL, Sept. 6 (UPI) — China appears to have built a new detention center near the North Korea border, according to an exclusive South Korea press report on Tuesday.
The camp, according to a China-based source who spoke to Newsis on the condition of anonymity, was built to keep North Korean refugees arrested in China.
Photographs of the camp, located near the Chinese city of Tumen, Jilin Province, show a blue building with an arched roof.
North Korean defectors are kept at the facility until they are repatriated to the North, according to the source.
Facilities include the blue building, a management office and a watchtower next to the detention center.
The status of North Korean refugees in China remains uncertain.
Beijing does not recognize the defectors as refugees, and have previously cooperated with Pyongyang in repatriating North Koreans who have fled their country.
In South Korea, the passage of a North Korea human rights act has prompted debate regarding the status of North Koreans in third countries.
The law, which passed on March 2 and began to be enforced on Sunday, has allowed for the establishment of a North Korea human rights archive.
But a South Korean official who spoke anonymously said it is “unclear” whether North Korean laborers in third countries like China can be protected under the new law, South Korean newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported last week.
Article 1 of the law states the legislation must protect and promote the human rights of North Koreans, but Article 3 states the definition of “North Korean” applies to the people residing within the boundaries of the North Korean state and “north of the demilitarized zone,” leaving out its applicability to North Koreans in China.
Ruling and opposition party South Korean politicians are divided over the magnitude of protection the law could provide for North Koreans outside the country, with ruling party politicians supporting protection for China-based North Koreans, according to the report.