Is North Korea really the best nation in the world?
have ended up becoming a citizen of South Korea, while I wanted
to be a citizen of Japan.
do appreciate, however, having landed safe and alive in this
country on July 17, 2008. I am currently enjoying my new life
here in Pusan, which is closest to Japan.
back, following my escape into China, I lived like a
ghost for 14 years, wandering about without nationality. Although
I was a political refugee, I had no place to go and no choice
but to keep moving on.
was born in North Hamgyong Province, North Korea
in 1971 as a second-generation Japanese. My father, Pukdo
Lee (not his real
name), is an ethnic Korean from Hokkaido in northern Japan,
and my mother, Michiko Toyota (also an alias), is a Japanese.
Japanese name is Akiko Toyota.
I reached adulthood, I believed what I was constantly
told, that North Korea, where I was born, was the best country
in the world. After reaching adulthood, I began discovering the
real nature of the country. This is because the government in
North Korea strictly controls freedom of speech and media.
listening to NHK and KBS broadcast was detected
I was working for a civil registration office in North Korea,
finding out more about world affairs and the real
nature of North Korea. While I was working at the office, a chance
came to listen to a radio that had been confiscated by the economic
inspection department, and I listened to NHK broadcasts from
Japan and KBS broadcasts from South Korea. But my listening was
discovered. One of my co-workers carelessly left a piece of paper
on his desk. He had written down on the paper the lyrics of a
song called “For Love” sung by a South Korean singer
named Kim Jong Hwan. A security inspector discovered the paper,
which triggered an investigation. During his questioning, my
co-worker disclosed that I also listened to the radio.
January 1994, my mother was arrested by a county security
supervisor when she went out to buy food. I have been unable
to reach my mother since then, although I continue to try. I
have learned that my father and my younger brother no longer
live in our house in North Korea.
my questioning and torture, I decided to cross the
the investigation, we were forced to kneel on a cement
floor. The officers tortured us by hitting us on our heads and
chests with chairs and square boards while cursing us and accusing
us of having been contaminated by capitalism. For listening to
foreign broadcasts we were charged with spying.
as I was collapsing nearly unconscious from repeated torture,
I resolved that I must escape alive from this country and tell
the entire world about the situation in North Korea. I firmly
promised myself that I would cross the Tumen River. So I did,
by carefully watching for my chance.
the Worker's Party may lead to a chance to return to Japan?
North Korea, everything is closely connected to
one's political ranking or status, and my mother, as a Japanese,
had no human
rights. She was not allowed to use her real Japanese name,
not allowed to return to her country and had no way to discover
her relatives in Japan were doing. However, she was told that
she would be entitled to go back to Japan if she were allowed
to join the Worker's Party of North Korea. She believed it
and continued to work extremely hard to be allowed that privilege.
time I escaped from the counry, however, she was still not
to join the Party.
mother was exiled to a mine because she submitted written
in 1947 in Japan, my mother moved with my father from Japan
Korea at the end of 1960’s. They were fooled by
the propaganda “North Korea is paradise on the earth” that
had been launched by The General Association of Korean Residents
moment she landed in North Korea, she felt that the country
from being a paradise on earth, and submitted a written
request to the North Korean government to immediately return
to Japan. Her request was rejected. As she found out more about
the true nature of the government there while she was living
in Pyongyang, she repeatedly submitted written requests for permission
to go back to Japan. Finally, she and her family were finally
exiled to a mine in xx county (county undisclosed for security
reasons). When they were exiled, the authorities in the North
Korean government threatened her, saying, “If you ever
submit another written request to return to Japan or even speak
Japanese, all of your family members will die.”
mother hung on to her dream of becoming a Worker's
Party member so that she could go back to Japan. For her
to come true,
she had to work 12 hours a day. Under the stress of malnutrition
and political pressure, I continued to work hard at a county
textile factory. However, my mother's dream never came true,
and she was locked in a life of despair.
can only imagine how hard it was for her to survive in North
Korea, where the language, culture and customs are so different.
In addition, she was forced to work in the morning before breakfast,
work to serve the society, work at the village farm in the afternoon,
and attend meetings in the evening.
she got sick, she never got medicines for
herself. Besides, the county hospital had no medicines anyway,
so she just
took home remedies.
But, when her family members got sick, she did manage to get
the necessary medicines by selling her last Japanese-made household
not let them die in North Korea
still want to help my mother, but I know it is impossible
to do that without the help of the Japanese government. I hope
the government of Japan will do their best to bring my mother
back home. I believe that the wish to return to Japan is not
only the wish of my mother and me but the wish of all Japanese
people in North Korea. I really do not want those senior Japanese
citizens in their 60s and 70s to die in North Korea. They should
be allowed to return to their home country where they can enjoy
peace in their final days.
we were exiled to the xx county, we could no longer contact
my uncle living in Japan and we no longer could receive the food
and household goods that my uncle had been sending us. When it
became difficult to make a living after the rations of food stopped,
my mother began exchanging Japanese-made goods for food for us.
Our living standard, however, grew worse.
Japanese wives are missing
are many cases of Japanese wives disappearing while wandering
around North Korea seeking food. In the case of my parents, however,
I think it is more likely that they are being confined in a gulag
or have been exiled someplace deep in the mountains.
strongly urge the Japanese government to pay attention to
the suffering Japanese wives in North Korea and work on measures
and policies to help them.
my mother is Japanese, I had long wanted to go to Japan. When
I was little, my mother told me with tears in her eyes, “It
snows a lot during winter in my hometown in Hokkaido. You have
to shovel snow before you can walk. When you grow up, you should
visit Hokkaido and see the snow.” Back then, I was too
small to understand what she meant, but now I understand her
feelings very well.
Japanese government should compensate the victims of human
rights violationsThe majority of the Japanese people who moved
to North Korea now believe that the propaganda claiming North
Korea is a paradise in the earth was a trick planned by the Japanese
government to drive Koreans out of Japan.
Japanese government should be responsible for the victims of
violations, since they knowingly sent their own
people to the “dark land.”
at this very moment, there are many Japanese people who
remain deprived of their human rights and are dying of starvation.
The Japanese government must not turn their eyes away from the
plight of these Japanese citizens. I urge the Japanese government
to institute measures to help them so that they will be able
to see their families, relatives and parents again as soon as
possible. Reaction of the Japanese Consulate in Shenyang
I was staying in China, I obtained a variety of information
through the Internet. One of the things I discovered is that
more than 10,000 North Korean defectors have resettled in South
I wanted to resettle in Japan, I contacted the Japanese Consulate
Shenyang five times between 2004 and 2005. Their
answer was always “Wait” and I finally learned not
to expect any more from them. It was extremely difficult to hang
on to hope while I remained a fugitive in China.