2013 LFNKR Annual Report Overview

From 16th General Meeting. Oct. 20, 2013


LFNKR, in FY2012 (Sept. 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013), has witnessed improved awareness in the international community with respect to the North Korean human rights issue. The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), was established in Sept. 2011. This organization, which includes 43 international NGOs in 15 countries, is engaged in lobbying activities. The ICNK group in Japan, of which LFNKR is also a member, has repeatedly visited Japanese Diet lawmakers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) as well as a number of foreign embassies in Tokyo.

The continued efforts made by ICNK to urge the UN Human Rights Council to take action have been rewarded by the birth of a UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in North Korea (established in Feb. 2013). In August, public hearings were held in both South Korea and Japan. At the public hearings, a wide range of materials, including videos, were submitted as evidence of the many crimes against humanity committed by North Korea. By March 2014, written reports based on the public hearings are expected to be prepared by the members of the UN Commission of Inquiry and submitted to the UN Human Rights Council. Additional investigations are expected to be carried out before the reports are submitted to the UN General Assembly in Nov. 2013.

North Korean defectors nearly halved

The number of NK defectors reaching South Korea in 2012 was 1,509, which is roughly half those of the preceding year, when 2,707 defectors were received. It is been 7 years since the number of NK defectors entering South Korea totaled less than 2,000. The reduction in the number started following the intensified crackdown by North Korea and China after Kim Jong-il’s death in Dec. 2011. An example of the tighter crackdown is Kim Jong-un’s authorization for border guards to execute defectors on the spots whenever they are found crossing the border.

Despite the dramatically reduced numbers of NK defectors, LFNKR has rescued 7 defectors, some of whom elected to resettle in South Korea and the rest in Japan.

For the past year, LFNKR has continued its activities, including the running of our Japanese language education center, which helps refugees to settle in Japan. LFNKR was commissioned to run this center by the Cultural Affairs Agency of the Japanese government. The center holds symposiums, participates in several events to publicize the North Korean human rights issue and make the public more aware of the rescue of North Korean refugees.

More details are below.

Summary of LFNKR activities during the past fiscal year
(Sept. 1, 2012 to Aug. 31, 2013)

Sept. 2012 to Dec. 2012

Sept. 5: Started Japanese language education classes
Oct. 6-7: Participated in Global Festival of NGOs held in Tokyo (about 78,000 visitors)
Oct. 16: Started rescue operation “Dragon 10”
Nov. 30: Discussed with MSF Korea about the rescue of NK refugees
Dec. 4: Contacted UNHCR Tokyo office to inquire about sponsored applications for refugees to enter universities in Japan, because some of LFNKR’s former NK defectors are likely to qualify

Jan. 2013 to Aug. 31

Feb. 2-3: Participated in One World Festival
(click here to read more)
Feb. 24: Held seminar to help NK defectors resettle in Japan and learn the Japanese language
Mar. 31: Published the first issue of “Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So in North Korea” (illustrations based on testimony from 8,934 detectors, including 81 who actually experienced the “death” camp.
(click here for details about the camp)
Apr. 30: Published the second issue of “Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So in North Korea”
July 3: Hiroshi Kato, the head director of LFNKR, gave a seminar on the North Korean human rights issue at Gakushuin University, a school in Japan where children of the Japanese imperial family study
July 16-20: Inspected the Southeast Asian escape route for NK defectors
July 29: Explained to COI (UN Commission of Inquiry) and members of ICNK (International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea) the basic policies of NK human rights abuse
Aug. 29-30: Attended and testified at the UN COI public hearings

Additional Information

Distributing food and medicines and providing medical aid

People in North Hamgyong province have suffered serious food shortages, especially due to recent natural disasters such as both draught and flooding in 2012. In response to strong requests for any food (they actually said that any food, even stale goods would be acceptable, as long as it is not seriously contaminated), LFNKR distributed 15 tons of rice to facilities (for about 260 senior citizens and 20 orphans) in North Hamgyong province. In addition, we also supplied 5 tons of rice to a facility in Chongjin.

However, in 2013, the number of North Korean people who cross the Tumen River in search of food has dramatically decreased because of the increasingly stringent crackdown at the border.

LFNKR helped two young defectors suffering from tuberculosis escape to a safe area where we they could receive emergency medical treatment.

Education sponsorship program

LFNKR currently has 24 children under its education sponsorship program. However, the Chinese government is changing the way it handles NK orphans. In the past, they always arrested and repatriated both NK mothers and any children born to NK mothers and Chinese fathers. Recently, however, they are repatriating only NK mothers. Unfortunately, in many cases, the Chinese fathers may neglect their children after the NK mothers are repatriated, which is leading to an increase in the number of orphans.

Due to the growing criticism by the international community of the Chinese government’s inhumane attitude, the number of repatriations seem to be decreasing. Currently, more of the NK women married and having children with Chinese husbands are not being sent back to North Korea. This is a positive development.

Accepting interns

LFNKR has encouraged young people to join its activities, such as supporting North Korean defectors and lobbying to strengthen the organizations activities. People interested in becoming interns are encouraged to join LFNKR’s “cherry-blossom viewing” party in the spring. We also invite such people to help with NK defectors resettling in Japan and to attend our organization’s press conferences. Interns will have opportunities to meet with MOFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) people, and to participate in lobbying activities, including visits to embassies and UN offices in Tokyo. Practical experience with activities such as these can help develop their interest and understanding of the North Korean human rights issue, while giving LFNKR greater access to outstanding human resources.

Working together with other NGOs

In order to enhance the awareness of the North Korean human rights issue, LFNKR has been working with 20 international NGOs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Doctors Without Borders (Medecins San Frontieres), Human Rights Without Frontiers (Belgium), Freedom House (US), Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (US), and North Korean Human Rights Database Center (South Korea).

Working for UN Universal Periodical Review

In addition to actively working as a leading member of ICNK Japan, LFNKR has also been actively involved in the United Nations’ Universal Periodical Review (UPR).

LFNKR submitted to the UN Human Rights Council reports on the human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government, one of which is the forcible repatriation of North Korean defectors.

To prepare for the UPR by the Human Rights Council in October 2013, LFNKR visited the embassies of four countries, including France and the Czech Republic in August to deliver hand written requests to interview embassy staff responsible for human rights issues. Also, LFNKR sent out letters and materials to 12 embassies in Tokyo to direct their attention to the repatriation of North Korean defectors, a serious human rights violation committed by the Chinese government.