Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor for me to be here today
and I would like to thank
The Committee for the Bangkok International Conference for North
Korean Human Rights for giving me the opportunity to say a few
words on behalf of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees.
Some of you may be wondering what kind of NGO Life Funds for
North Korean Refugees is. We are a small Japanese non-profit
organization, and first of all I’d like to tell you a bit
about our organization and activities.
Life Funds was founded in 1998 with the aim of helping as many
North Korean refugees as possible. Presently, we have approximately
150 members from Japan, South Korea, China, the U.S., Australia,
We estimate that there are approximately 100 000 North Koreans
living in hiding in the three northeastern provinces in China.
The work of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees falls into
The first two are the distribution of food and clothing to those
who have fled North Korea due to hunger, and the provision of
medicine and medical care to those who require it.
We also provide
shelter to North Korean refugees in China who need it.
Fourth, recognizing education as a basic
requirement for children, including refugees and orphans,
we have created an educational
foster parent program. Working under an informal arrangement
with a school principal who is an ethnic Korean Chinese,
as well as the local Han Chinese community, we are sending
refugee children to school.
In addition to this, we are drawing
upon retired ethnic Korean teachers in the community, who
visit the shelters and teach the children.
Finally, with our Foster Parents program, we profice protection
and education in China to refugee children and children who have
lost their parents.
When we consider the current conditions in North Korea from
a human rights standpoint, a major problem that cannot be overlooked
is the issue of human trafficking. Although it is impossible
to know exact figures, LFNKR estimates that there are more than
70, 000 victims of trafficking at least. According to surveys
we have taken in ethnic Korean villages where our shelters are
located, the woman has been sold into marriage in ten
to twenty percent of all the households in those communities.
The youngest victim of trafficking that we know of was sold
at eight years of age and brought up in an ethnic Korean Chinese
household until the age of fourteen, when she was sold for 1,500
RMB to a Han Chinese man. At 19, she gave birth to a child, but
after the baby was born, she was sold again by a broker to another
man. At present we do not know where she is. Cases of women being
re-sold in this manner by brokers are, unfortunately, not uncommon.
The going price for women being traded is 20,000 to 30,000 RMB
for a woman in her twenties, 15,000 to 20,000 RMB for a woman
in her thirties, and 5,000 to 6,000 RMB for a woman in her forties.
The price is lower by 500 to 1,000 RMB if the woman is
accompanied by children.
In the mid 1990s, as the rationing system in North Korea
began to break down, the number of people leaving that country
to find food in China began to increase. Ethnic Koreans
in China provided their hungry brethren with food and clothing.
But the goodwill of these ethnic Koreans was also abused, and
as incidents of robbery and murder increased, relations deteriorated
and the Chinese security forces began to crack down on North
Korean defectors. North Koreans seeking to escape starvation
began to enter China in large numbers in 1997.
The trafficking of women in China began to attract notice around
2000. Women suffering unbearable poverty in North Korea began
to see escape to China as a road to survival. At the same time,
reports began to emerge of the increasing frequency with which
female defectors were falling into the hands of brokers in China.
Among these reports were those made by the supervisors of our
shelters about the North Korean women living in the villages,
as well as their children.
The Chinese authorities are in close contact with the North
Korean security agency, and are trying to flush out the North
Korean wives of ethnic Korean Chinese men. Women who are arrested
and repatriated to North Korea leave behind children with no
one to look after them. Children orphaned in this way usually
seek to survive by helping with farm work, looking after
cattle and the like,
exchange for food and a place to sleep.
Children born to North Korean victims of trafficking face a
bleak future. These babies choose neither their country of birth
nor their parents.
Children of North Korean women living in China illegally are
stateless: they possess neither Chinese nor North Korean citizenship.
They are unable to exercise any rights, including those to an
education, and exist in a state of extreme poverty.
You know, you have to wonder why it is that Chinese government
policies show no mercy to families. They callously tear them
apart, separating mothers and children with no regard to human
In Yanji, Longjin, and other cities near the border between
China and North Korea, the two countries have intensified their
crackdown. North Korean authorities provide Chinese security
police with information on North Korean defectors, and the Chinese
police follow up relentlessly. These police personnel are highly
motivated – their government is paying high bounties. Each
North Korean refugee arrested puts 2,000 RMB in
someone's pocket. That bounty payment equals the monthly
salary of most university graduates in China.
Over the years, human rights NGOs, international organizations
and foreign governments have made numerous appeals. They have
asked the government of China about this issue of North Korean
defectors in China.
The Chinese government has ignored these appeals. In fact, they
have neglected to respond, and continue to forcibly return North
Korean refugees to face sure and brutal persecution in North
Korea. This is an obvious and blatant defiance of humanitarian
principles. The Chinese government clearly has no interest in
what the international community thinks. The UNHCR’s appeals
to the government of China are always ignored. Beijing has also
ignored the appeals of the South Korean government on behalf
of aid workers arrested for helping North Korean refugees.
The two lessons to be learned from past incidents are these:
First, China responds only to a strong show of force. Second,
the last thing that works with the Chinese government is an appeal
to humanitarian consideration. China is submissive in the face
of strength, but shows no mercy toward the weak. North Korean
defectors are in a position of strength when they are in the
custody of foreign embassies and weak if they lack the protection
of a strong power.
I now publicly issue a call to all South Korean activists and
North Korean defectors. From this moment forward, I urge you
to direct your efforts to collecting evidence, testimony and
information that provides full details for the international
community in general and the UN Special Raporateur, in particular.
We should recognize, however, that if the South
Korean government were to raise this issue, it could call up
of ignoring of the Human Rights in North Korea under the sunshine
policy and the Commitment Policy.
We must accept that if the South Korean government were to
raise the issue of North Korean human rights, it could be less
At the same time, I want to add my voice to those urging that
a clear, strong message be sent to the South Korean government
that it must not and cannot hinder international efforts to help
the innocent victims of North Korean crimes against humanity.
They may not be in a position to help, but they should never
hinder the efforts of others.
In addition, we all should take this occasion to acknowledge,
with profound thanks, the Thai Government's attitude of no repatriation
of North Korean refugees the country where they came from.
In closing, and with your permission, I would like to personally
call upon the entire international community to intervene
decisively in the North Korean situation. It is clearly a matter
Let us, therefore, create a living reality in which someday
all innocent North Korean prisoners and all South Korean and
abductees will know for a fact that they were never for a moment
forgotten by the international community.