Category Archives: China
Annual Meeting Held in Tokyo
A summary of LFNKR activities during fiscal 2015 (Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2016) and the plans for the next fiscal year were outlined at the annual meeting.
I Want to See my Daughters as Soon as Possible
By Pak Sung Hee (alias), a Former NK Refugee
I once lived in Chongjin, North Hamgyong. From the 1990’s (the time of the “Arduous March”) through early 2000 we experienced severe starvation. I realized that my whole family would starve to death if something didn’t change, so I crossed the Tumen River into China to bring back food. I bitterly regret, however, that I was never able to make it back to Chongjin where my family was waiting for me.
My father is Japanese, and my mother was an ethnic Korean resident of Japan. Years earlier my parents had believed the propaganda claiming that North Korea was a Paradise on Earth. So, together, they immigrated to North Korea.
LFNKR (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) recently helped the first two of the six North Korean refugees waiting to escape to freedom. These six are the refugees for whom we recently invited donations.
And it was your generosity that enabled us to help these two. Thank you so much for your ongoing interest and your continued support, and we invite you to help us help the remaining North Korean refugees on our waiting list.
Rescue mission 613 was initiated at the beginning of June, and although it encountered a few unexpected incidents, everything ended well. Unfortunately, just before the rescue mission began, the identity of the special “guide” originally selected for the task was disclosed in the media. This, of course, meant the guide’s risk of arrest had become too great, so we hurriedly sent in a different guide.
When the small boy arrived at the orphanage, staff members decided to call him “Kim Chol.” Chol’s nightmare began back in October of last year. The Chinese police had discovered that his parents were North Korean defectors, so they arrested the two and handed them over to North Korean security officers for repatriation, but the five-year-old was left to fend for himself. See our earlier report on Chol
On the Human Rights Situation in North Korea
February 6, 2016
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January of this year despite the suffering of its people. Although North Korea claims that it was a hydrogen bomb, questions remain due to the nature of the seismic activity associated with the blast.
The North Korean government announced that the hydrogen bomb test “firmly protects the sovereignty of the country and the dignity of the nation…and reliably safeguards the peace on the Korean Peninsula and regional security” and even now is going ahead with missile launches.
Happy New Year
From Hiroshi Kato, Executive Director,
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Wishing all of you health and prosperity in the New Year
It appears that North Korea has succeeded in establishing a three-generation political dynasty. However, the UN has passed resolutions condemning the North’s human rights abuses, calling them grave, widespread, systematic abuses that amount to crimes against humanity. The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution critical of the DPRK with the support of 119 countries.
Rapidly approaching are the Christmas and New Year holidays – a perfect time for gift-giving. Perhaps you’ve been thinking of donating to a worthy charity. If so, may we suggest a very special group of orphans; abandoned children born to North Korean defectors in China.
The most recent child to come to our orphanage arrived just two months ago. Here is his story.
It was October 4, 2015, a Sunday, when, without announcement or appointment a fiftyish-looking man just showed up at our orphanage in China. With him was a young boy.
Here’s some background information that may give you a richer understanding of the NK refugees.
Last year our Executive Director, Hiroshi Kato, participated in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit. It was his first-ever AMA and he was really impressed with the quality of the questions he received, which ranged from defectors’ life skills to misconceptions about North Korea. We have included the questions and answers he received, edited slightly for readability.
We hope you enjoy reading it, and feel free to add your own questions and comments on Facebook or Twitter!
NK mothers whom China has repatriated cannot be thanked by their children this Mother’s Day.
Because of Chinese internal politics, any North Koreans including mothers, if caught and arrested, are forcibly shipped back to North Korea, leaving their children behind in China. LFNKR looks after as many of these children as we can. Unfortunately, our reach is limited, leaving many more kids with no one to care. In this video, Kato Hiroshi, LFNKR’s executive director, explains more about the situation.
Fleeing North Korea: Southeast Asia
Part 1: The Rescue Mission Begins
By Takayuki Noguchi
(This is the first article in the series “Fleeing North Korea: Southeast Asia” by LFNKR’s Takayuki Noguchi)
On December 10, 2003, I was convicted by the Chinese authorities of traveling with North Korean defectors and sentenced to eight months in prison. The two defectors I was with were also detained and then forcibly repatriated to North Korea. I heard that one of them was tortured and died, and the other was sent to a prison camp for six months. After I was released, I decided to record as much as possible about what had happened. The result was “Fleeing North Korea” (Japanese; published 2010).
June 29, 2014
From Keigoh Tabira, 2nd-Generation “Nagasaki Hibakusha” (Atomic-bomb victim in Nagasaki, Japan)
A personal appeal from one private citizen seeking peace for a just world.
1. Stop ignoring brutal behavior that directly damages China’s own national interests
Low Funds Delay Rescue Mission – Can You Help?
For a while now, LFNKR has been working quietly with a couple of South Korean NGO partners. Currently, we are ready to launch missions that will result in the rescue of a total of seven North Korean defectors (3 families and one woman) now hiding in China. However, due to a depleted rescue budget, we find ourselves unable to implement the first step of this rescue plan.
China’s abuses also highlighted
Last week (October 22) saw China’s second review at the Human Rights Council. Under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the human rights record of each country is reviewed by member states and NGOs. Life Funds for North Korean Refugees was one of only two NGOs to raise China’s human rights abuses vis-a-vis North Korean refugees (the other being Human Rights Without Frontiers).
UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea held hearings in Seoul Korea from August 20th through 24th, then reconvened in Tokyo to hear from further witnesses related to Japanese citizens impacted by North Korea’s actions. Michael Kirby chaired the Commission. Streaming video lets you hear all testimony.
Sent Back by Lao Officials
Back in December 2011, a total of 15 defector youths, all of whom had once been Kot-jebi (homeless street kids), got together for a Christmas party in a hidden shelter in Dandong, China. Most look happy in the photo, but just a year and a half later, their fates have split between heaven and hell.
By LFNKR local staff member in China
A group of typical students study at one of our foster care shelters in China. The shelter is situated near the North Korean border. It is true that the North Korean government provides facilities in each province to accommodate Kot-jebi (homeless street children). However, since the facilities are chronically short of food, many children, driven by hunger, run away to seek food on their own.
Will Pay up to 2,000 Yuan per 5 Captured
NKFC (North Korea Freedom Coalition) members, including LFNKR, have recently received information about the on-going crackdown by Chinese authorities. See a PDF copy of the Chinese language document, along with English and Korean translations.Chinese authorities recently released a police order along the NK-China border which sets specific prices for any criminal escapees (North Korean refugees) trying to get away from the starvation and madness so rampant in their own country.
Even Ally China Disapproves
An important human rights committee at the United Nations passed a resolution that condemned the human rights record of North Korea. Also receiving bad marks were Iran and Syria. This year’s vote on North Korea was passed by consensus, and for the first time ever, China, North Korea’s long-time ally, voted in favor.
Notified by email
To help assure that the two North Korean orphans suffering from tuberculosis will immediately receive all necessary health care, LFNKR emailed the following message to the South Korean Embassy in Bangkok on Aug. 7, 2012.
LFNKR recently received a letter from a homeless child (Kot-jebi) forwarded by a Christian-based NGO in South Korea. The letter was written by a 13-year-old Kot-jebi, who lost his feet due to frostbite aggravated by severe burns. Mr. Kim, a Korean NGO director, has been working with Korean missionaries and local Korean-Chinese to support North Korean defectors and Kot-jebi, homeless children. LFNKR has decided to join them to help strengthen their local activities.
LFNKR Staff Member Visits Yanbian, China
For the first time in more than ten years, I visited China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Recently, China has undergone remarkable economic development, and its impact has reached even China’s northeastern region of Yanbian. From my previous visit, I recall low-rise buildings scattered about and old Soviet-made cars on dilapidated roads.
Refugees Need Immediate Help
Since Feb. 8, more than 30 North Korean refugees have reportedly been arrested and held by Chinese police in Shenyang, Yanji and Changchun. Most of these refugees wish to go to South Korea where their family members have resettled. One of them, a teenage boy, has siblings in South Korea but no other family members in North Korea.
Following the death of Kim Jong-il, authorities have further tightened their control over citizens.
Along the Tumen and Yalu Rivers, which run along the border between China and North Korea, every available radio tracking instrument is being brought to bear in a round-the-clock crackdown on cellular phones.
On Dec. 24th, LFNKR’s Tokyo office received a fifth flash report from one of our local staff members in Rason Special Economic Zone in North Hamgyong. According to the report, at noon on the 24th, the only vehicles lined up to go through China’s Quanhe customs gate into North Korea were about 20 coal trucks bound for Rajin Port in North Korea from Heilongjiang, China.
“I can no longer help defectors,” Mr. Kim told me.
For the past three years, he has worked with us, continually facing danger and difficulty as he has aided defectors. He is the person running JSH-01, one of five shelters situated along the Sino-Korean border. Recently, he has grown increasingly anxious as Chinese public safety and border defense units toughened their crackdown even further.
Nobel Peace Prize Awarded to China’s Liu Xiaobo
Congratulations to Mr. Liu Xiaobo of China for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. We at LFNKR deeply respect his unrelenting dedication to human rights and democracy. This award can, we believe, help motivate the Chinese government to improve its stance toward human rights.
Time of Crossing Bo-rit-kko-ge, Barley Hill
In Pyongyang, rice distribution is halted, potatoes are seldom available
On March 26, when the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan was sunk in Korean waters near the Northern Limit Line, 46 South Korean sailors died. An international team of civilian and military investigators from Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia found that the underwater explosion was caused by a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine, thus sinking the ship. Pyongyang has denied responsibility.
Rising tensions along the China-North Korea border
Following the sinking of Cheonan, tensions have risen sharply along the China-North Korea border. On the North Korean side of the Tumen River, the number of heavily armed soldiers deployed has tripled since the incident. Every morning and evening, fully equipped North Korean soldiers, are seen chanting and running in formation with their guns in hand.
The head of the border police at the Tumen River customs office now faces greater pressure.
Until the incident, this area had been famous for its border tours, with crowds of people thronging the souvenir shops and restaurants. Tourists took many vacation snapshots home with them from here. In the restaurants, old men sat drinking beer and reminiscing about North Korea.
But in Chinese society, where word of mouth matters, reports of the North Korean troops quickly spread and the number of tourists declined sharply.
One owner of a Tumen River-side restaurant expressed anger with North Korea, and disappointment with the sharp decline in business because customers fear the tense situation in the area. He is also extremely nervous, since no one knows what will happen next, nor when.
Inspectors from the State Security Department and the Central Military Commission
Until the rice planting season in May, the State Security Agency officials from Pyongyang, who had been sent to carry out inspections, were staying in the homes of the border guards and the Sixth Army Corps officers.
Since the incident, however, inspectors from the Central Military Commission have begun reviewing the troops. Tension is also rising in North Korea. At one of our shelters, not one single North Korean has come seeking food since the Cheonan sinking incident. Previously, 30 people a month was typical.
The North Korean border guards, who routinely took half of all rice coming in from China as their own share, are now unable to take any. They are out of business and out of work.
In response to this tense situation, both China and the Shenyang Military Region, in an effort to avoid provoking North Korea, have been secretly taking action to deal with the situation. At the present stage, the local government and the communist party are handling matters and remain on the alert.
China has been trying to maintain an appearance of normalcy, but they continue to watch matters closely.
Though the situation is tense, cross-border traffic between China and North Korea continues to be treated normally. As yet, no restrictions have been imposed.
Fifty thousand passes issued
In November of last year, North Korea informed China that it would issue border passes to 50,000 North Korean citizens. At that time, the announcement was not handled by North Korea’s foreign affairs people. Instead, it was the State Security Department who explained it to China’s police officers.
The reason, they explained, was to allow North Korean citizens access to support from their relatives in China. It is highly probable that, even in Yanji city, many North Koreans have received such passes legally and entered China.
In many cases, the relatives in China are unable to offer much help. In such unfortunate cases they also seek help from churches, from our shelters and from our collaborators.
Without support, North Koreans become refugees
North Koreans usually enter China on one-month visas. Many of them, however, cannot return to North Korea until they have received the help they need. This is because, in many cases, they have borrowed the equivalent of $500 for their visa application fees and travel expenses from their acquaintances and friends. As a result, these North Koreans end up becoming illegal overstayers or refugees, who often then try to depart to third countries.
Seeing this opportunity, some North Koreans have gone to South Korea, so North Korea quickly responded by sending State Security Agency personnel to China to crack down on this practice.
For a while, it had appeared that the North Korean Security Agency had suspended these operations. But according to information from one person within the Chinese police, since the Cheonan incident, more than 100 Security Agency people have been actively operating in Yanji city.
It is time to cross over Bo-rit-kko-ge, Barley Mountain
In Yanji city I met two North Korean refugees from Wonsan-city, Gangwon-do province in early July. This mother and daughter had decided never to return to their home country. They asked me to help them because they are seeking a way to reach South Korea.
Their IDs presented no problem, since they were introduced to me by people with whom I had worked previously. Even so, there was no guarantee they could get to South Korea safely.
Worse, if they happened to be arrested and repatriated to North Korea before they reached South Korea, the names of the people helping them would be uncovered in the course of interrogations, which would put those people in danger. We discussed this, weighing the danger involved against our own safety.
People in Wonsan are being told it is time to cross Bo-rit-kko-ge
(Note: “Bo-ri” means barley and “ko-ge” means high hill or mountain. In the past, in many Asian countries, springtime would bring a period of hunger before the barley was ready for harvest, but after the previous year’s rice had already run out. The expression includes the nuance that it is very hard to get over the mountain before the barley harvest. It was especially bad for the poor. During this season, people usually comb the mountains seeking anything edible, including roots and sprouts, or what we call “san na-mul”, which is basically anything green.)
The mother and daughter told us that that they had no food, no medicine, and that they had lost their property in the currency reform. They expressed anger because they can never expect anything good to happen, no matter how much longer they stayed in North Korea. They said that they had no choice but leave because they simply could not make it over Barley Mountain.
A Korean-Chinese trader, who knows a North Korean doctor working in a Pyongyang ophthalmic hospital, reported that the food situation there had reached its worst point ever. In expressing sympathy for the North Koreans, he used the same phrase: it’s a time of crossing Bo-rit-kko-ge.
Top doctor hasn’t had rice for six months
This ophthalmic hospital was built with support from South Korea. It is said that everything, including medicines, medical equipment and facilities, were sent from South Korea, although all the doctors working there are from Pyongyang. This is a first-rate hospital, yet it needs to obtain food supplies on its own, and cannot manage to accomplish this.
This doctor, the head of his department, hadn’t eaten white rice for half a year. The hospital seldom distributes any kind of food, and only occasionally distributes new potatoes. Thus, even the doctors are suffering from the food crisis.
With the doctors employed in top medical facilities enduring conditions like this, it is clear that ordinary Pyongyang citizens are suffering even more severely from this unprecedented famine.
Special Report by Kato Hiroshi
Executive Director of LFNKR
Children Suffering from Stunted Growth
Recently we had a doctor examine the health of 8 abandoned children of NK mothers in China who had been forcibly repatriated to North Korea. In every case the doctor found stunted growth or malnutrition – or both. Although no official statistics have emerged, reports from local members working in our shelters suggest that there may be as many as 7,000 or 8,000 children of North Korean mothers “married” to Chinese men living in Yanbian, Jilin district in China.
Critical Shortage of Foods and Medicines in North Korea
The disastrous floods of July and August have caused enormous damage in Pakistan, China and North Korea. Serious damage was caused to North Korean granary areas, including Huang Hai Namdo, Pukto, Hamgyong Pukto and Namdo in the Northern area.
Citizens Speak Out
LFNKR recently acquired a copy of a letter sent to Chinese authorities by one of our readers, a private citizen living in the United Kingdom. This letter clearly outlines some of the more critical issues now facing China and North Korea.
– North Korean refugees trapped 2 years in Japanese diplomatic missions in China
– China demands Japan stop accepting and protecting North Korean refugees.
On July 8, the Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, ran a feature by journalist Takuya Suzuki. According to this article, the Chinese government is demanding a written pledge from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) that no Japanese diplomatic mission in China will ever again accept or protect North Korean refugees.
LFNKR Education Sponsorship Program
The first inspiring story involves a 9-year-old foster child being supported under the LFNKR education sponsorship program who has reached South Korea and been restored to his mother. This means that the child has graduated from our sponsorship program.
One of LFNKR’s local staff members in China took this picture across the border on June 1, 2010. It shows people planting rice seedlings in Namiyan, North Hamgyong, North Korea. Their clothing indicates that they are not farmers but soldiers and urban women who have been assigned to the rice planting job.
Thyroid Illness Common in NK Woman’s Village
One day recently, a 30-year-old woman from North Hamgyong, North Korea unexpectedly appeared at one of LFNKR’s shelters in China requesting medical assistance. She was suffering from hyperthyroidism, with swollen throat, and in her home city had received a Chinese remedy for her illness. That medicine, however, had worsened her symptoms.
University Website Mentions Noguchi’s New Book
Arkansas State University posted an article, Thursday June 3rd, on its school news website, Inside ASU, describing the new book written by alumnus Takayuki Noguchi. The book, entitled Escaping with North Korean Defectors, relates his experiences in China as he helped North Korean refugees escape to freedom.
Exec. Director Kato Recognized
In recognition for years of effort on behalf of North Korean refugees hiding in China, the US State Department, on 26 April 2010, presented a special certificate to LFNKR Executive Director Kato Hiroshi in a ceremony at the US embassy in Tokyo.
Success, Failure and Imprisonment
A young Japanese man begins a risky mission to help North Korean refugees escape across the China border into Vietnam.
Noguchi Takayuki, one of this organization’s directors, relates how he was jailed in China in 2003 for engaging in humanitarian work. His book, “Escaping with North Korean Defectors,” was released on April 10, 2010. Noguchi, a young volunteer with a Japanese NGO, was on a mission to guide North Korean defectors to freedom, but ended up jailed in China for 243 days.
Mr. Kato and Ms. Watanabe stand in as parents for the bride and groom, both of whom are former North Korean refugees.
It has been ten years since LFNKR (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) staff members working in China found 10 North Korean orphans who had fled to China to escape the starvation. These first children were the stimulus that prompted LFNKR to begin an education sponsorship program that would enable us to protect them and provide them with an education.
Personal Accounts of NK Women Fleeing to China
An American NGO, The US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), at the end of April this year, released a 64-page document titled “Lives for Sale.” The report includes 53 summarized personal accounts, along with the history and context of such human trafficking of North Korean women in China. Most of the women fall into the hands of brokers, who sell them to Chinese farmers or to China’s sex trade.
According to recent media reports, Kim Jong-il, now suffering health difficulties, has selected his third son, Kim Jong-un, to succeed him. The North Korean regime is reportedly accelerating plans to become an important military power by 2012. This may explain why the regime has conducted repeated missile launches and nuclear tests in defiance of UN resolutions on sanctions, despite escalating tensions in the world community.
North Korea’s second nuclear test on May 25 shocked the world and caused the strongest tremor ever to hit the border area between China and North Korea. People in the region feared that it was another huge earthquake like the recent one in Sichuan. Fortunately, I had lived in Japan long enough to be familiar with earthquakes, so I did not panic. However, most people living in the border area were clearly terrified.
Foster Kids Send Their “Report Cards”
Recently at the LFNKR office we received a packet of letters from our North Korean foster children in China, telling us about their school achievements. Clearly some of these children are gifted students, and it would be a tragic waste if they were denied an education. We are delighted that they are doing well and learning very rapidly. It is my hope that the happiness in their lives can continue.
‘Shadow Chidren’ Have No Nationality, Legal Status
In China, the number of children having no national identity papers continues to rise, particularly in the provinces of Jilin, Heilongjang, and Liaoning where the trend is strongest. These so-called “shadow children,” born to female North Korean defectors and Korean-Chinese or Han-Chinese men, are denied the right to register as real Chinese, which means they have neither identification nor official standing.
Interviews with North Koreans in China
In June 2004, Joel R. Charny of Refugees International spent one week in Jilin province in China interviewing 38 North Korean refugees. They live, Charney found, a precarious and clandestine existence as illegal migrants. Download Charny’s 7-page report in PDF format.
Below is our interview with a North Korean defector.
“I escaped into China on November 27, 2008. This is my fifth escape. I have no place to go. Let me die here or please help me.”
The temperature outside is already down to -10°C and it will continue to fall. Hong Song-man, 65 years old, begged the interviewer (an LFNKR local staff member) for help, pleading with tears in his eyes. He said he had previously stayed in a village in Helong, Yanbian Korean-Chinese autonomous state of Jilin Province, where villagers helped him.
Nothing New from Lee Myung-bak
South Korea’s pro-North stance, including its Sunshine Policy and its Engagement Policy implemented by the regimes of Kim Dae-jung and Roh-Moo-hyun, has caused untold suffering for the North Korean people and North Korean defectors due to rampant human rights violations.
Brokers ‘help’ through threats, intimidation
Ms. Hiroko Saito, the Japan-born wife of a North Korean, was arrested in Japan on March 8 this year by Osaka Prefectural police. The woman, who had earlier escaped from North Korea and made her way to Japan, was arrested together with a Chinese couple on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control Act. She is suspected of falsely stating that the Chinese couple are relatives so that they could enter Japan illegally.
A Walk in the Shinobuyama Snow
On January 12, 2009, our group, LFNKR held an event to celebrate receiving this year’s Tokyo Bar Association Human Rights Prize. One of our former foster children, Song Hyuk (not his real name), flew from South Korea to attend the event with his girlfriend (also a North Korean defector) and Mr. Kim Sang Hun, a human rights activist.
Expectations High, but Will Plan Be Implemented?
Rumors filtering out of China recently suggest that the Chinese government may begin granting refugee status to some North Korean defectors. The Chinese government has so far stuck to its official position that there are no North Korean refugees in China, that North Korean defectors have entered China illegally, and that their stay in China is illegal.
When the president of one of most influential American NGOs having strong ties with the US government visited Japan in early March, LFNKR directors met with him to discuss the North Korean refugees.
We submitted the following recommendations on the approach to China, and requested that he strongly urge the Obama Administration to adopt the recommendations in establishing its approach to China.