Current Border Situation
Since its founding in 1998, LFNKR has been supplying food, clothing,
and medicines to needy people in North Korea and to North Korean
refugees who have fled into China.
During the period from April
28 to May 10, 2008, LFNKR supplied through its local network
one ton of rice and 80 first aid kits to needy people in North
Korea and also to North Korean defectors hiding in China.
in response to strong requests from local staff members in
North Korea, 300kg of seed corn was supplied to two hub stations
South Hamgyong and North Hamgyong in North Korea.
following report came from LFNKR local staff members.
Reinforced Chinese border security
LFNKR staff member had visited the same border area for
the clandestine aid supply operation in March. An unwelcome surprise
this time was the reinforced security at the border between China
and North Korea. There were two border guard checkpoints on the
border road, although it is a very short distance from Tumen
to Longjing along the Tumen River. At the checkpoints, everyone
passing is being required to show their IDs and answer detailed
questions about their destination and purpose of visit. The border
guards are even opening the trunks of vehicles now to check inside.
Testimony by new North Korean defectors
April 23, before distribution of the aid supplies had even
JRS-02 (one of LFNKR’s shelters in a mountain
area) received three new North Korean refugees, Mr. Choi in his
50s, Ms. Kim in her 40s and Mr. Chong in his 20s. They said it
took them one month to walk all the way to the shelter from Kangwondo.
They told the local staff members there about the current situation
in North Korea.
Kim showed her badly swollen legs and recounted her difficulties.
said, “We had completely run out of food at home, and
I had decided that I was certain to also die from starvation
just as my husband did in back 1997. So I decided to gamble on
fleeing into China, hoping to find enough food to fill my stomach
rather than sitting at home waiting to starve.
also said, “People are taking whatever they find,
including their old clothes, to market to exchange for corn or
potatoes. When they run out of things to exchange for food, they
go into the mountains to look for wild plants to survive. The
current situation in North Korea looks the same as it did about
ten years ago when so many starved to death. People are moaning
that “The Arduous March” has started again.”
Massive starvation again?
in 1992 or 1993, regular food distribution was suddenly stopped,
and many people died from starvation because they could
think of no other ways to find food. Today, however, many people
have acquired the skills and wisdom they need for survival. They
have learned to secure food for themselves by conducting trade.”
this season, new grasses are starting to grow, so people
go into the mountains and fields to look for edible plants. They
put a small amount of corn meal in cooking pans and add lots
of grasses to make grass porridge. When they run out of corn
meal, then they just have to eat grass. Every day, nothing but
grass. People are so starved. I worry terribly about my three
daughters who are still at home.
coming of “The Arduous March” — a repeat
“The prices of food have been rising since January this
year, and now the price of rice is three times higher, reaching
3100 won (about $3.00) per kg, and it will soon be 4000 won per
kg. If this situation continues for another few months, it could
be worse than the previous “Arduous March” period.
I’m afraid many people are going to die of hunger.”
are having a hard time getting farmers to work on farms. Many
of the farmers cannot work because of starvation.
Recently, the number of families who only eat one meal a day
is rapidly increasing. I was planning to get as much food as
possible in China and bring it back home, but the reinforced
guard prevents me from moving out of this mountain. I just don't
know what to do now.”
The amount for bribing guards has tripled
seems that the money required to bribe a border guard when
crossing the Tumen River has tripled. It used to be 500RMB (about
“I promised to hand money equivalent to 1500RMB ($216.00)
to each border guard on the North Korean side when I crossed
the river to come here,” Ms. Kim said. The 1500RMB is a
great deal of money even in China. How could she earn so much
money?. She said she would beg her aunt living in Heilongjiang,
which is not easy to reach since it is not near the border. If
she cannot contact her aunt, then she will never be able to go
back to North Korea. This, however, is not uncommon.
been one week since I crossed the Tumen River. Kind people
bring us lots of food, vegetables, and meat, and
I can eat until my stomach is full every day, but the terror
never leaves me, not even for the blink of an eye.
Repatriation means death in prisons
“Few people in our village ever try to escape from North
Korea, because almost no outside information reaches our village,
which is far inland. Most of them don't even know that they could
get enough food to fill their stomachs here in China. If they
knew, I’m sure they would all try to flee to China. Most
of the villagers believe that the people in all other countries
are living lives like their own. A few people in the village
who tried to flee into China were arrested. Unlike villages near
the border, the punishments are much more severe in our village,
since it is located inland. Hardly anyone ever comes out of the
Incentive pay to informers has risen 16-fold
increasingly severe punishments scare village supervisors
best we can do to help is providing them with food, clothes,
medicines and the like. We cannot protect them by letting
them stay at our homes or guide them anywhere.
April, the Chinese security policemen began coming into our
every day to check for North Korean defectors. If they
find that any of us has let them stay or helped them move anywhere,
then they will fine us at least 8,000 to 10,000RMB ($1,150 – $1,445),
hear that anyone reporting to the security police about where
defectors are hiding will receive a large reward.
Recently, five female North Korean defectors were arrested in
our village. It seemed some despicable man in the village reported
them to the security police. We have no idea how much incentive
money the man received. But, one day, we unexpectedly discovered
who the informer was. We caught him, beat him, and drove him
out of our village. The whole village agreed to punish him because
he had taken away the hope of happiness of some village members
who had found kind North Korean wives.”
Limitation on food taken out of China and Restriction on visitors
“Neither South Korea nor China provides food aid any longer.
Until last year, 10-ton trucks loaded with food were seen at
major commercial hubs in Yanbien, but we don’t see them
this year. Now, we have tight limitations on how much food Korean-Chinese
people can take with them when they visit their relatives in
North Korea. I hear that the weight limitation on food that can
be taken out is 200kg.
addition, from March of this year, they began to apply even
stricter limitations on North Koreans visiting China. Just showing
a pass permit is no longer enough to enter China, because it
has become common for North Koreans carrying such passes to flee
to foreign countries outside China, instead of returning to North
Korea. I hear this is because the security for the coming Beijing
Olympics in August has been strengthened. During the Olympics,
there will be many foreign tourists in China, which means North
Koreans would have many more opportunities for access to foreigners.
North Korean authorities are most concerned that a large number
North Korean people might flee into South Korea during
the Beijing Olympics.”