Kim Chun Gun had only 1 month left until his visa expired when he decided to contact Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) – basically his last hope.
When contacting us, Chun Gun mentioned that a Mr. Shin, the president of a Korean company, had suggested he get in touch with LFNKR. He, however, knew President Shin only indirectly and had never actually met him. He was told that President Shin, a humanitarian aid worker, had helped Chun Gun’s mother, who had already resettled in South Korea. Still, Chun Gun was uncertain whether mentioning Shin’s name would even work.
Unknown to Chun Gun, however, “President Shin” is a code name our organization uses for a certain humanitarian aid worker. This man has played an important role in helping several of LFNKR’s foster children escape China and reach safety via a route through Vietnam. Our group trusts this man implicitly and so immediately accepted his request to help the young man, Kim Chun Gun, with his difficult visa situation in Japan.
Fortunately, when LFNKR met with him, Chun Gun still had 30 days before his visa expired.
If sent back, harsh punishment would await him. As an illegal escapee from North Korea, he faced high likelihood of strict punishment if repatriated, possibly even the death penalty. There was hope, therefore, that the Japanese immigration authorities would give him special consideration and issue a permit allowing him to stay in Japan.
LFNKR staff members and interpreters accompanied Chun Gun to the Immigration Office to submit a written petition and explain his situation. After that, the interviews and investigations were held at the Immigration Office once every month until December. A total of five visits to the Immigration Office, each lasting from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm exhausted him and the LFNKR staff members.
Provisional release status, but …
He was accused of having entered Japan under a forged Chinese passport, but fortunately, the immigration authorities did not detain him for using the forged document.
The more urgent problem, however, was that he was not officially allowed to get a job under the “provisional release status.” This was his biggest problem. He had regained his health and was ready to work again, so it was difficult to restrain his natural urge to find useful employment. On the other hand, if he should start working again, he would be punished for the illegal act and could be even jailed in the worst case. He found this deeply frustrating.
Near-explosion when a policeman questioned him
Chun Gun was already speaking good Japanese by then. One day when he was still in provisional release status, he had an argument with a policeman in Akihabara, Tokyo.
When he showed the policeman the provisional release status document, the policeman obviously did not recognize it, and took a long time examining it. Irritated, Chun Gun taunted, “What’s wrong, Mr. policeman? Can’t you read Japanese?”
The policeman pointed to the place in the document, which showed “Chinese nationality” and contemptuously said to him “A man like you is not allowed to stay in Japan. Go back home!” Chun Gun confessed that he came close to punching the policeman. Drawing upon every bit of self control, he controlled that urge. Instead, he politely asked the policeman to hand the document back to him.
He calls this one of his most unforgettable experiences in Japan.
Afterwards I advised him, “It’s best never to start an argument, nor to let yourself get drawn into one.”