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Koreas scuffle interrupts U.N. human rights meeting

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SEOUL, South Korea >> South Korean lawmakers have scuffled with North Korean delegates in Switzerland at a U.N. meeting on the North’s alleged human rights abuses.

Several South Korean lawmakers tried to grab a North Korean diplomat leaving the U.N. meeting as they chanted slogans against China’s policy of repatriating North Korean defectors, footage from Yonhap news agency shot Monday showed.

The lawmakers were pushed away by security and North Korean delegates.

The incident came amid reports that China is returning dozens of North Koreans to their communist homeland instead of letting them defect to the capitalist South. China considers North Koreans who illegally enter its soil economic migrants, but activists fear the North Koreans are refugees who will face torture and imprisonment if repatriated.

Yonhap said the North’s diplomat left the conference after denying a U.N. human rights envoy’s criticism of his country.

Seoul has urged Beijing to provide information on North Koreans reportedly held in China, but Beijing has refused.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry has also sought help from the United Nations and the United States to stop China’s repatriation.

In a statement that didn’t mention the scuffle, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry lashed out at South Korea’s government Tuesday for raising the issue internationally. The ministry also accused the South of kidnapping North Korean citizens and turning them into defectors.

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