Three orphans being held in a jail in Laos

These three orphans managed to escape from North Korea, make their way through China, and were then arrested by Lao police. Here, they await processing before release to South Korean authorities.

Two foster children play in one of our shelters

These two orphans can finally relax and enjoy being off the streets and receiving an education. Each LFNKR member may sponsor an orphan or abandoned child being cared for in one or another of our shelters, sending financial help, encouragement and support.

A traditonal cherry blossom viewing party

North Korean refugees, now resettled in Japan, get together with LFNKR members to celebrate the coming of cherry blossoms and the first hint of spring in Tokyo.

Tokyo Bar Association Recognizes LFNKR

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees was awarded the Human Rights Prize by the Tokyo Bar Association

Former North Korean refugees wed

A refugee couple, one a former foster child and the other a recent defector from North Korea, have married. They invited Mr Kato and Ms Watanabe of LFNKR to stand in as parents.

13 year-old street child with severe burns

LFNKR, working jointly with a South Korean NGO, helped this kot-jebi (street child) receive urgently needed medical treatment after he lost both feet to the combined effects of frostbite and severe burns.

One Volunteer’s Story

Ever wonder who does the behind-the-scenes work in an NGO like ours?

A while back Hiroshi Kato, who heads this organization, posted a call for volunteers – someone to help LFNKR with translation work. Since this NGO is made up almost exclusively of volunteers, and there’s always more to do than time available, we are always delighted to hear from those wanting to help.

One young lady in the US, a “Mrs M,” contacted us offering her assistance. Only thing was, she wasn’t sure her skills were good enough. We sent her a couple of short articles to try, and as it turns out, her skills were excellent. She’s been translating for us ever since.

And then the other day we wondered, would readers be interested in hearing how one volunteer started?

We thought that you, our readers, might indeed be interested, so here it is – Mrs M’s story:

“Blessing House” – Settling and surviving in Japan

First Japanese Entry Permit, First Japanese Guest House Permit

By Igawa Fukuko

After entering Japan, our family faced continuous hardship for one or two years.
Our family escaped from North Korea and were given entry into Japan in 2000 with absolutely no money or skills. We were anxious about what kind of life was waiting for us from here on. In any case, we felt at least secure that we probably would not starve to death.

Kato, participates in “Ask Me Anything” session

Here’s some background information that may give you a richer understanding of the NK refugees.

Reddit

Last year our Executive Director, Hiroshi Kato, participated in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit. It was his first-ever AMA and he was really impressed with the quality of the questions he received, which ranged from defectors’ life skills to misconceptions about North Korea. We have included the questions and answers he received, edited slightly for readability.

We hope you enjoy reading it, and feel free to add your own questions and comments on Facebook or Twitter!

Update – 3 Ladies Who Defected

 Steady Progress in 3 Careers

Here are three young ladies whom LFNKR has helped resettle in Japan, and updates on their progress as they work toward establishing new careers.

beauticianMs. E has worked a number of different jobs, and eventually she decided to become a beautician.  So, after she gained her Japanese high school diploma via correspondence, she took the entrance exam for a famous beautician’s college in Tokyo, which of course she passed.  She tells us that she is looking forward to learning this new skill. She is confident that by becoming a beautician her expertise will enable her to help those who need encouragement and others who may need their spirits lifted through her skills.

Rescue Requests Growing Again

Fear Spreading Among High Officials

Chang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle of Kim Jong-Un and former number two in North Korea’s power structure, was arrested and executed in December 2013.  Since then, power struggles and purges have grown in the country.  According to reports filtering out, the ongoing investigations, purges and executions are often directed toward officials responsible for the earning of foreign currencies. So widespread have these practices become that they are now cutting a swath through mid-level management. Increasing numbers of officials are falling before this reign of terror. The instability of the regime has even had a dampening effect on the economic activities of the general populace.

Mother’s Day – Sad Day for NK Orphans

NK mothers whom China has repatriated cannot be thanked by their children this Mother’s Day.

Because of Chinese internal politics, any North Koreans including mothers, if caught and arrested, are forcibly shipped back to North Korea, leaving their children behind in China.  LFNKR looks after as many of these children as we can.  Unfortunately, our reach is limited, leaving many more kids with no one to care.   In this video, Kato Hiroshi, LFNKR’s executive director,  explains more about the situation.

Fleeing North Korea Part 1

Takayuki Noguchi

Fleeing North Korea: Southeast Asia
Part 1: The Rescue Mission Begins

By Takayuki Noguchi

(This is the first article in the series “Fleeing North Korea: Southeast Asia” by LFNKR’s Takayuki Noguchi)

On December 10, 2003, I was convicted by the Chinese authorities of traveling with North Korean defectors and sentenced to eight months in prison. The two defectors I was with were also detained and then forcibly repatriated to North Korea. I heard that one of them was tortured and died, and the other was sent to a prison camp for six months. After I was released, I decided to record as much as possible about what had happened. The result was “Fleeing North Korea” (Japanese; published 2010).

Obituary

Rest in peace, Kenkichi Nakadaira

It is with great sadness that Life Funds for North Korean Refugees announces the passing of its founding Executive Director, Kenkichi Nakadaira at the age of 89 from heart failure.

We are deeply grateful for the selfless devotion he showed, becoming the bedrock of the fledgling organization that LFNKR then was. LFNKR, a recognized NPO, is the organization it is today because of the foundation that Nakadaira-sensei established. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Nakadaira-sensei for everything he has done and we express our deepest condolences to his family.

LFNKR Exect Kato Interviewed

Emil Truszkowski, a Polish journalist, who is the first subscriber to the LFNKR YouTube site, visited LFNKR office in Tokyo to interview Hiroshi Kato, the executive director.  He has posted the interview at his channel “Welcome to North Korea.”  Truszkowski expressed his wish to help Polish people become aware of the North Korea human rights issue.

LFNKR to participate in NK human rights event

LFNKR board member will join Japan’s NK human rights symposium in NY

On May 5th, 2015, the government of Japan will host the international symposium on human rights violations by North Korea, including their record of abductions.  LFNKR is dispatching a permanent board member to participate in the special event.

Set a Goal and Tackle it for Best Results

Former NK refugee aims at certified nurse

Here is an update from Miss K. H., the young North Korean defector who is now studying to become a nurse in Tokyo. Like Sumi’s mother (in the previous post), this young lady also reported on her current activities at the recent LFNKR annual meeting.

It will soon be 2 years since I entered the nursing school in April 2013.  Time is flying by as I scramble to keep up with the heavy curriculum schedule, which includes the weekly exams, the events and all the practical training. 

Former NK Refugee Starts New Business

Former NK refugee starts a new business

LFNKR has helped many North Korean refugees to escape and resettle in Japan. Here is one of those success stories. This young lady attended LFNKR’s recent annual meeting, where she caught us up on her current activities. This report is from the mother of Baby Sumi, now age two (check the links below for more details). Here is a summary of her presentation.

A Whole New Look

Website Facelift

See anything different? Silly question, right? You’re probably already noticing the new look. Here at NorthKoreanRefugees.com we’re in the process of changing our site’s appearance. Starting today, we’re sporting an entirely new, more streamlined style.

The old look was a very new look back in 2002, when we first launched this site. But time marches on – especially on the Internet – and the very newest thing can be superseded very quickly by technology that works better, faster and more transparently. 

UN Receives NK Human Rights Review

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW

( Visit UN’s Periodic Review Page )

Submission for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
(NORTH KOREA)

2 Executed, 7 to Prison Camp

9 N.K. Defectors Repatriated
7 Sent to Labor Camp, 2 Executed


An Example of NK’s “Humanitarian” Treatment of Defectors

In June of 2013, we reported on 9 orphans who made it all the way out of North Korea, across China, and into Laos before they were arrested and repatriated to the brutal regime they were trying to escape. (See “World Community Outraged by Orphans Returned to NK“)

Now, news is starting to filter out about what happened to them. The Dong A Ilbo website in South Korea reports that of the nine young escapees, two were executed, and the other seven sent to the infamous Prison Camp 14.

Crowd Funding

New — Crowd Funding Initiative
Exciting Donation and Financing Technology


GOAL:
Help One More North Korean Refugee Reach Safety

Everybody’s familiar with how fast Internet technology advances. Way, way back in 2003, when we instituted a new way for you to donate (via PayPal), it was still a fairly new idea. But time rolls quickly onward.

And now, there’s a new option we think you might appreciate. It’s called “Crowd Funding” and it’s an easy way to make donations to help support the rescue of North Korean refugees. Find out more about crowd funding here.

2014 Annual Report

2014 Annual Report Overview
Date: November 29, 2014
 

From 17th Gen. Meeting Oct. 19, 2014

Introduction
As a member of the ICNK, LFNKR has been actively working with other international NGO members to help the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate North Korean human rights violations. Primary activities include providing investigation materials, as well as related North Korean and Chinese written laws and regulations, testimonies by previous detainees at the notorious death camps and their relatives, public hearings of North Korean defectors and nonofficial interviews with North Korean defectors.

Whitewash Goes to Prison

2014-10-yodok-map

North Korea Whitewashing
Infamous Prison Camps

Prison Camp Getting a Face Lift

It appears that North Korea may be instituting a new prison reform – in its own strange way.

Reports filtering out of North Korea suggest that political prisoners are secretly being smuggled out of the notorious Yodok prison camp in North Hamgyeong Province, and transferred to other camps under cover of darkness, so that their movements cannot be tracked by satellite cameras.

Joint Statement to Prime Minister Abe

Joint Statement from Five
Japanese & Korean NGOs


To Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Request for the Permanent Resettlement in Japan of all Japanese Spouses and Family (including grandchildren) of Ethnic Koreans “Repatriated” to North Korea on the occasion of the Stockholm Agreement between Japan and North Korea

On the occasion of the July 1 initiation of the Japan-North Korea government-level consultations, we would like to express our deepest respect for your commitment to resolving humanitarian problems including the issue of helping those abducted by North Korea.

Follow LFNKR on Twitter

twitterbird

Follow LFNKR on Twitter


Here Are LFNKR’s Latest Tweets


 


Open Letter to China’s President

Open Letter to the President of China
June 29, 2014


From Keigoh Tabira, 2nd-Generation “Nagasaki Hibakusha” (Atomic-bomb victim in Nagasaki, Japan)


A personal appeal from one private citizen seeking peace for a just world.

1. Stop ignoring brutal behavior that directly damages China’s own national interests

Doing Well in Nursing School

Former NK refugee loves nursing school

Nursing School, First Year Done


Update from former NK refugee

Miss K. H., one of the North Korean defectors we helped rescue four years ago, just sent us an update on her progress in nursing school. As you may recall from ourearlier article last year, she is a former North Korean defector who has resettled in Japan.

What We Look for in an Intern

If You’ve Ever Thought of Internship…

Throughout the year, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees receives inquiries from students interested in doing an internship with us. We’re excited by all the enthusiasm for North Korean human rights issues that this represents, and we wish that we could take on some of these impressive candidates.

7 NK Refugees Waiting for Help

Seven NK Refugees awaiting Rescue

Low Funds Delay Rescue Mission – Can You Help?

For a while now, LFNKR has been working quietly with a couple of South Korean NGO partners. Currently, we are ready to launch missions that will result in the rescue of a total of seven North Korean defectors (3 families and one woman) now hiding in China. However, due to a depleted rescue budget, we find ourselves unable to implement the first step of this rescue plan.

Baby Sumi Celebrates First Birthday

Baby Sumi's First Birthday

Report from Mother

Sumi, the baby born to our North Korean refugee parents in December of 2012, is growing and thriving wonderfully. Recently, a photo and email arrived at our LFNKR offices reporting on Sumi’s first birthday celebration.

NK Human Rights Abuses Detailed in UN Report

UN Report on Human Rights Abuses in North Korea

 

UN Lays Open NK Human Rights Abuses

On February 7, 2014 the United Nations released a 36-page report produced by its Commission of Inquiry based upon many hours of eye witness testimony detailing human rights abuses in North Korea. The report is titled “Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”

Changed Life – Unchanged Heart

By Keiko Kawai

(name changed for security)

Fifteen years ago I left my parents, brothers and friends behind and set out for Japan, a country whose ways I knew nothing about. This move has brought dramatic changes to my life; meanwhile my heart – my determination and my commitment to a better life – has never wavered.

Trains Allow Freedom of Speech in NK

Trains a free speech outlet in NK

By Local LFNKR Staff Member

I know that people around the world believe that there is no freedom of speech in North Korea. This is not wrong. However, we do have one – and only one – exceptional place where we can enjoy freedom of speech. This is in our trains. We have a strict status-oriented society, which means rigid discriminations of rank. So our trains have special compartments for top officials.

Speech — “Inside North Korea”

LFNKR's Hiroshi Kato

Address to International Media Forum

Mr. Hiroshi Kato, executive director of LFNKR, was invited to the International Media Forum event titled “Inside North Korea” held on April 1 at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo. The Forum had 41 participants, including NGO groups, Japanese and foreign media and diplomats. Mr. Kato’s gave an outline of this group’s activities along with some specific figures.

Camp 14 – Born in NK Political Prison

Documentary on Camp 14 Filmed

Recruiting Volunteers To Expand Film Screenings

A German director has made a documentary film depicting the harrowing life of a young man who was born and raised in a North Korean political prison camp, and is currently living in South Korea after defecting from North Korea.

2013 LFNKR Annual Report Overview

From 16th General Meeting. Oct. 20, 2013

Introduction

LFNKR, in FY2012 (Sept. 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013), has witnessed improved awareness in the international community with respect to the North Korean human rights issue. The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), was established in Sept. 2011. This organization, which includes 43 international NGOs in 15 countries, is engaged in lobbying activities. The ICNK group in Japan, of which LFNKR is also a member, has repeatedly visited Japanese Diet lawmakers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) as well as a number of foreign embassies in Tokyo.

NK Security Clamps Down on Brokers

Storms of Arrests, Executions Seen

On Nov. 25, one of our local staff members (K-0078) in North Korea sent us a report on the most recent security measures being enacted at the border of Hyesan, Ryanggang-do. In October, North Korea started dispatching special inspection forces from the state security department and the people’s army political department to tighten their border security.

Kato Addresses Meiji University

LFNKR's Kato speaks to Meiji University

 

Seeking Solutions to the Problem

Mr. Hiroshi Kato, the secretary-general of LFNKR, and an expert on North Korean human rights issues, is often invited by leading Japanese universities to speak on this topic. Below is an outline of a recent lecture. It was presented at Meiji University on the 7th of November 2013. These lectures often inspire young people to join in our human rights activities.

UN Inquiry Moves Judge to Tears

Witnesses Tell of Gross Cruelty

The chief of a UN inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea was “moved to tears” by witness testimony revealing “gross human rights violations”.

According to BBC reports, retired judge Michael Kirby said that the inquiry had gathered “copious evidence” of rights abuses in North Korea.

LFNKR Submits Report to UN

China’s abuses also highlighted

Last week (October 22) saw China’s second review at the Human Rights Council. Under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the human rights record of each country is reviewed by member states and NGOs. Life Funds for North Korean Refugees was one of only two NGOs to raise China’s human rights abuses vis-a-vis North Korean refugees (the other being Human Rights Without Frontiers).

UN Commission on NK Human Rights Abuses

to Hold Public Hearings in UK And US

Press Release

COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA

GENEVA, 17 October 2013 – The United Nations-mandated commission investigating the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will begin next week a series of public hearings in the United Kingdom and the United States aimed at gathering information from witnesses on rights violations alleged to have occurred in the Asian nation.

Watch Streaming Videos of UN Inquiry on NK

Michael Kirby of UN's Commission of Inquiry

UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea held hearings in Seoul Korea from August 20th through 24th, then reconvened in Tokyo to hear from further witnesses related to Japanese citizens impacted by North Korea’s actions. Michael Kirby chaired the Commission. Streaming video lets you hear all testimony.

Emergency Aid Project to Send 10 Tons of Corn Noodles

Heaviest Rains in 40 Years Catastrophically Damage Grain Crops in North Korea

LFNKR local staff reports – the heaviest rains in 40 years have caused serious damage to grain producing areas in North Korea, including Hwanghae-do and Pyong-an Namdo. These two areas already suffered severe damage during the two previous years, and now they have been hit again. This, before they had a chance to recover from the devastation of last year and the year before.

LFNKR’s Kato Addresses UN Commission

2013-09-COI-public-hearing-2

On August 29 and 30, an official Commission of Inquiry (COI) public hearing was held at the UN University in Tokyo. The following speech was presented by Mr. Hiroshi Kato, the executive director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR).

Then, in parallel with the official hearing, three members of the UN Commission of Inquiry quietly visited the LFNKR office to hold a private, closed-door interview. Click here for an outline of the public hearing.

Former NK Refugee in Nursing School

Studying Hard Every Day: 

KH, who enrolled in nursing school in April, is about to start her summer vacation. It has been less than 5 years since KH came to Japan from North Korea. First she enrolled in, then graduated from, evening middle school. Next, she took enough units at the municipal high school to earn her high school graduation certificate in less than two years. This spring, she applied to take the entrance examination for a well-known nursing school. Competing against native Japanese high school students under the exact same conditions, she passed an exam for which only about 1 in 7 gains admission.

UN Inquiries Revealing Human Rights Horrors

Shin Dong-hyuk addresses UN Commission

Reuters Reports on Revelations

We at LFNKR are glad to report that real results are beginning to flow from the U.N. Commission of Inquiry into North Korea human rights violations and whether those violations amount to crimes against humanity. We reported, back in May, that the Commission had been convened and was about to start its investigations. 

Click here for the original article.

New Documentary Features 2 NK Defectors

Review by A. P. (an LFNKR director)

“The Defector,” a newly released documentary film follows two young women, Sook Ja and Yong Hee, whose experiences in escaping from North Korea are common to many women who have defected from that country.

The film opens with Sook-ja, whose older sister had left seven years earlier to seek work in China. The sister had planned to send money back to her family. Using an illegal cell phone, Sook-ja tries to contact her elder sister, but this phone call leads to her arrest by the North Korean police. Imprisoned, she vows to escape and flee the country.

Reader Donations Help Rescue 2 Women

UPDATE – July 11th:

The two North Korean women who were waiting for us to escort them to safety were successfully conducted to a safe zone and, once all official processing is completed, will be resettled in South Korea.

2nd UPDATE – August 30th:

The two North Korean women have now safely reached South Korea and are settling in to their new life of freedom.

16-Year-Old Pens Article on NK Death Camps

North Korea: What it says about you and me
by H.C.

When I was twelve, simply another angst-stricken, preteen lost soul, I discovered the concentration camps of North Korea and the inhumanity of the regime and have carried the grievous burden of having this knowledge and desperately wanting to help but having no way of knowing how or even where to start. Perhaps the most painful lesson of all to learn was that few listen and few care. The first time a child’s pleas for something unselfish are disregarded is the instant in which their innocence is torn away and they become aware of what our world has come to.

Open Letter to Kim Jong-un Urges Explanation

Letter to:
Kim Jong-un, First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea,
Chairman of the National Defense Commission

Letter Dated: May 7, 2013

We, the undersigned human rights NGOs of Japan, without political, religious, or economic motives, met in Tokyo on May 7th to review the decades long, systematic, widespread, and grave human rights violations in North Korea, which are documented in the publications listed below, as well as multiple other sources of information.

Rescues Stalled for Lack of Funds

More NK Refugees Awaiting Rescue – Help Us Get Them to Safety

LFNKR has received desperate cries for help from NK defectors. A severely physically handicapped father, 59, and his two sons (ages 27 and 25) have risked their lives to escape from North Korea. They are now in Yanji, waiting for us to help them make it the rest of the way to South Korea.

Repatriation of 9 Orphans Draws World Attention

Heavyweight International Groups Getting Involved

The story of the 9 young orphans summarily shipped back to North Korea by the Lao government has captured the world’s attention and stirred strong emotions around the globe.

Amnesty International has issued an “Urgent Action” document as a call for the world community to take a firm stand against the reckless behavior of the Lao government. 

LFNKR Statement on the 9 Repatriated Orphans

These 9 Orphans Are Only the Latest Outrage

Since 1998, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), a Japanese NGO based in Tokyo, has been engaged in the rescue of North Korean refugees suffering from tragic conditions in China and some Southeast Asian countries.

Pastor Joo Tells His Story

Demonstrators protest Lao's repatriation of 9 orphans

Reported by Dong-A Ilbo (May 31, 2013):

News outlet Dong-A Ilbo interviewed the pastor who guided the nine North Korean defector orphans during their attempted escape from China to Laos.

We wanted to leave the Lao immigration center because something felt wrong, but the South Korean embassy told us “Stay”

9 Repatriated NK Orphans Face Life or Death

9 orphans sent back to NK

Sent Back by Lao Officials

Back in December 2011, a total of 15 defector youths, all of whom had once been Kot-jebi (homeless street kids), got together for a Christmas party in a hidden shelter in Dandong, China. Most look happy in the photo, but just a year and a half later, their fates have split between heaven and hell.