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Waterfall - Jeju Island

Their saga has been widely reported.  44 Chinese nationals jumped ship on Korea’s Jeju Island on Sunday.  More prosaically, and more accurately, they disembarked Costa Classica for a day’s outing on the resort island with many of their fellow passengers and failed to return.  Had you been present at the time, you would have been able to identify them – they were the people carrying their luggage!

As of this writing, 11 members of the group have been found and deported, turned over to Chinese police authorities.  The other 33, when found, will face a similar fate.

Why did they do it?  Many of the articles maintain that the group planned to make for the Korean mainland and get jobs.  Is this really the case, or has it simply attained the status of fact through repetition?  I haven’t read any article which claims to have had direct contact with the detainees.

One longs for a loftier motivation, one not quite so mundane, a motivation that would help crystalize thought processes.  Perhaps mundane is the best we’re going to get.  In a situation that is, to my mind, incongruous at best, the noblest response is a bit uncertain.

The Republic of Korea (South Korea) is treating the issue as one of illegal immigration.  There’s no indication that the group sought political asylum, so South Korea may well be correct.  Illegal immigration is certainly an issue which has incited a fair amount of heated debate here in the US and is, perhaps, a troublesome issue for Korea as well.  Their response may well be dictated by the need to protect their own citizens’ best interests, or even by law or treaty.

In my mind, however, I keep coming back to one major concern – they are being turned over to Chinese police authorities.  Now my concern might be completely unfounded.  Perhaps China has fully embraced the concepts of human rights and punishment in fair measure as befits the crime.  I’m not convinced, however.  I suspect and fear that their days on Costa Classica were the last good ones these hapless job seekers will experience for a while.

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