Here is the script of the speech I presented at
the second International Conference on NK Human Rights "The
Seoul Summit, Promoting Human Rights in North Korea," held on
Dec. 8-10, 2005 at the Shilla Hotel in Seoul, Korea.
Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) was founded in 1998
as a non-partisan non-governmental organization
with no political, religious, or corporate affiliations.
It was funded entirely by the 20 founding members who each
$100 out of their own pockets. We held meetings in coffee shops
rather than having an office, and did our photocopying at a local
printing shop. The reason we decided to do this was that renting
office space would have cost us $1000, money that could be put
to better use buying food for North Korean refugees.
that time, none of us could have imagined that international
interest in the North Korean human rights problem would grow to
the extent that it has, or that so many people would become involved
in North Korean human rights issues. We were simply acting out
of goodwill and trying to do what we could. However, in order to
continue our relief activities, acquiring office space, computers,
and a copy machine became necessary. Requests for assistance were
increasing so much that without an office, we would not have been
able to continue our work. We realized that expectations of our
organization would grow as requests to assist North Korean refugees
continued to increase. So in 2000, we acquired an office and were
thus able to continue our activities.
the establishment of LFNKR in 1998, our priority has been
on protecting and relocating refugees whose lives are in great
danger because they can neither return to North Korea, nor remain
in China. Together with our partners, we have seen more than 100
North Korean defectors resettle in South Korea, and nearly another
100 return to Japan. Our NGO has been responsible for the resettlement
of approximately 25% of these defectors.
defectors who have returned to Japan are those who were born
in Japan, and have family in Japan, but who settled
in North Korea during the communist North’s “Paradise
on Earth” campaign starting in 1959. It is not only Korean
residents of Japan who went to North Korea during the “Paradise
on Earth” period, but also Japanese spouses of North Koreans;
in total approximately 100,000 people. If we consider those who
have died in North Korea, or started new families there, the
total number of those who considered Japan their homeland or
it would be possible to return to Japan is closer to 300,000.
In spite of this, there are no more than 100 people who have
to Japan from the North. The reason for this is that the ethnic
Korean residents originally from Japan who went to North Korea
are unaware that if they sought asylum at the Japanese embassy
or consulate in China, they would be granted protection on the
basis of their Japanese citizenship.
the number of former Korean residents of Japan who
are aware that the Japanese government will protect them and that
they can return to Japan, and who therefore are seeking asylum,
is increasing. In fiscal 2006 alone, the number of people escaping
the North and attempting to enter Japan will likely surpass one
is not encouraging. Even if the Japanese embassy and consulate
undertake to protect asylum-seekers, until the Japanese and Chinese
governments agree on the smooth exit of refugees from China, they
are in great danger of being detained by the Chinese security forces
and being repatriated to North Korea. Our organization had a case
this year of a former ethnic Korean resident of Japan who was supposed
to leave for Japan on January 7th, but who went missing on January
3rd. If the Japanese consulate is able to accept requests for asylum,
it should also be able to provide protective custody. However,
it did not do so. When the person who went missing was on the verge
of returning to Japan, the likelihood of being detained by the
Chinese security forces and being repatriated to North Korea was
very high. This disregard for human life on the part of the Japanese
government is a serious human rights violation.
those who have left North Korea at the risk of their lives,
and returned to Japan, many problems remain. Many people lack the
basic everyday life skills necessary to adjust to life in Japan.
Many were unable to obtain sufficient education in North Korea
and their level of employment skills is low. In addition, their
lack of sufficient knowledge of the Japanese language is a serious
barrier to adjusting to life in Japan.
normal circumstances, it would be the responsibility of
the Japanese government to provide to returnees financial assistance
for the initial period in Japan, priority access to public housing,
assistance in seeking employment, occupational training, Japanese
language training, and training to facilitate the adjustment to
Japanese society. However, at the present time there are no such
measures whatsoever, leaving to NGOs the task of aiding refugees
and leading them to safety.
have also been cases of defectors who are aware of the situation
regarding the Japanese government’s lack of support
for refugees, and who give up on the idea of settling in Japan,
to go to South Korea. When viewed in this light, it is clear
that the Japanese government will have to do far more for refugees
when the government is presented with the facts by NGOs, there
no effort whatsoever to pass the necessary legislation.
In the Diet, Japan’s lawmaking body, the only recourse with
regard to resettlement assistance is to nonpartisan lawmakers’ private
members’ bills. In the US, the North Korean Human Rights
Act was passed by Congress, a budget implemented, and a special
envoy on North Korean human rights appointed.
Democratic Party of Japan has drawn up a draft bill proposing
of an equivalent Japanese North Korean human rights
law. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is also working on a
draft bill. Thus we have great hopes that in the next Diet session
Korean Human Rights Law” will be adopted. If this bill
is passed, it is conceivable that those wishing to return to
from North Korea will be treated humanely, and will have the
chance to start a new life in Japan based on their own ability
first major challenge facing Japanese NGOs in 2006 is the creation
of the Japanese equivalent “North Korean Human
second is for Korean-speaking staff to be assigned to Japanese
diplomatic missions in China, for the doubling of the capacity
to provide safe refuge to asylum-seekers, and for the missions
to expand their response to need.
third is for the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to
be allowed access to North Korea in order to survey the situation.
fourth is to work together with the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition
for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights (IPCNKR) to document
human rights abuses of North Korean Refugees, and, working
in an organic partnership, to make serious human rights abuses
fifth is to draw up a report concerning the situation of North
Korean women being trafficked in China.
sixth is to mount an international campaign with NGOs around
the world, to warn China that if it fails to behave in a manner
befitting the host country of the Olympics, and continues to ignore
international law in forcing repatriations to North Korea, the
Olympics will be withdrawn from Beijing. And in addition, to approach
the International Olympics Committee, as well as the Olympic Committees
in each country with this aim in sight.
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (NPO)
A-101, 2-2-8 Nishikata, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0024