Category Archives: China

Japanese Wives Victimized By Brokers

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.

Former Foster Child Visits Benefactor’s Grave in Japan

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.

Rumors – China May Recognize Some NK Refugees

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.

Recommendations for the Obama Administration

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.

Seminar on Refugees & Human Rights to Be Held in Tokyo

Agenda for Tokyo Seminar

13:00 Registration
“North Korean Children Beyond the Border” a documentary film (20minutes) to be played continuously as people enter…
13:30 Welcoming Remarks
Hiroshi Kato, Secretariat
Director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR)
14:00 State of Human Rights in Asia
Kanae Doi
Tokyo Director of Human Rights Watch
14:20 Human Trafficking Forum
Stories from the victims
Opening remarks – Introduction
Testimony from victims
Participants Q & A
15:20 Presentation
Trafficked North Korean women and their Children in China
Kate Nielsen
Director of International Relations, LFNKR
15:40 Presentation
The invisible trafficking to China from Kachin State in Myanmar
Shirley Seng
Director of Kachin Women’s Association in Thailand
16:00 Presentation
Trafficking of North Koreans in China
Lin Fei
Representative of Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition Japan
16:20 Presentation
Reception condition of women and children asylum seekers in Japan
Eri Ishikawa
Secretary general of Japan Association for Refugees
16:40 Presentation
Resettlement of North Korean Women and children in Japan
Kotaro Miura
Representative of Society to Help Returnees to North Korea
17:00 Panel Discussion
Refugees and Human Rights in Asia
17:40 Closing Remarks

Letter Sent to US Secretary of State

LFNKR has submitted, through the American Embassy in Tokyo, the following letter to the new US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton who is visiting Japan from Feb. 16, 2009:

To:  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
From:  Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (NPO), Tokyo, Japan
Re:  Human Rights in North Korea

February 10, 2009

Dear Secretary Clinton,

May we congratulate you on your appointment to the post of Secretary of State, a position which is more vital in today’s world than ever before. And we welcome your visit to Japan and hope that your discussions with the Japanese government are fruitful.

Tokyo Bar Association Awards Human Rights Prize to LFNKR

Kato Hiroshi, executive director of LFNKR, speaking at awards event

Kato’s Speech Text

Honored members of the human rights awards screening committee of the Tokyo Bar Association, and ladies and gentlemen gathered here today, I would like to express profound thanks to the esteemed Tokyo Bar Association for presenting the human rights awards for 2008. We at Life Funds for North Korean Refugees are deeply honored to receive your award this year.

NK Defector Escapes China after 14 Years

Mother Was Japanese

The following is the true story of a daughter born in North Korea to an ethnic Korean father from Japan and a Japanese mother. Her parents had married in Japan, then moved to North Korea where the daughter was born. Neither the Japanese mother nor her daughter ever reached Japan. Would things have been different if they were Labor Party members?

Update on NK-China Border Situation

Pass Permit Issuance Suspended in NK 

In April, the North Korean government stopped issuing pass permits for North Koreans to enter China. Because of this, many North Koreans who have entered China, seem to be staying there even after their pass permits expire. This means that they are now illegal immigrants – defectors – and if arrested, they will be repatriated. As a matter of fact, according to a local LFNKR staff member in China, many North Korean defectors have already been arrested and sent back.

Follow-up Visit with Orphans Held Last Year in Laos

The Choi children, one year later, with Kato Hiroshi and Kim Sang-hun, a South Korean humanitarian aid worker.

World Outcry Freed Them from Custody in Laos

Last year 3 North Korean orphans fleeing China were being held in a jail in Vientiane, Laos. When Kato Hiroshi visited them last year, the boy was sick from the stress of being in jail. At that time, Kato encouraged the three, a boy and two girls, telling them “Don’t worry, I promise to get you out of here soon.”

NK Refugees Tell of Stricter Border Security

June 2008

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.

LFNKR Protests Nagano Olympic Torch Relay

LFNKR joins protesters at Nagano Olympic Torch Relay

Nagano Japan, April 26:

The Olympic torch relay was carried out under high security as 3,000 policemen stood at high alert. The heavy guard was posted to protect relay runners from intruders throwing raw eggs and tomatoes, but it also kept away interested citizens. Many of those attending were asking “Is this a peace festival? Aren’t the Olympics supposed to be a symbol of peace and friendship?”

Join the North Korean Freedom Week Events

Update from Suzanne Scholte
of North Korea Freedom Coalition

Dear Friends:

I am pleased to send another update on the events confirmed for North Korea Freedom Week April 26-May 3, 2008. 

Please note that since my last update we have added several additional events: another panel session, a special demonstration by Youth for Truth and as a testament to the importance of North Korea Freedom Week, the producer of the soon-to-be-released movie Crossing, Patrick Cheh, is coming to show a special screening of this movie that is scheduled for threatrical release in South Korea in June.  

China Raises Bounty on NK Refugees 1600%

A year’s Pay for One NK Defector

Stories of a shocking new development are just beginning to leak out of China. The government there has just raised the stakes in the human rights issue now coming to a boil. While the world’s attention is focused on the uproar in Tibet, other important developments are quietly taking place in the shadows.

China Hunting Down Refugees, Aid Workers Ahead of Olympics

Crackdown Intensifying

With the Olympics only months away, Hu Jia, an HIV-rights activist, has been arrested by the Chinese authorities for subversion. According to those involved in the case, on December 27 2007, about 20 police officers served Hu with a warrant at his home in Qufu, Shandong Province, then arrested him. For 30 days after his arrest, his mobile phone was not working.

NK Eyewitnesses Describe Winter Nightmare

Conditions Along Chinese-NK Border as of January

According to Kim (40), who runs one of our organization’s shelters on the Chinese-North Korean border, 118 North Korean defectors sought shelter between November 18 and December 25, 2007. During the winter, food and winter clothing are the biggest problems for North Korean citizens. Most defectors are dressed lightly in summer wear and without socks. This is unbearable in the Yanbian region, when the Tumen River is already frozen and the temperature falls to -20C at night.

Report on Foster Parent Programme

A Look Back — A Look Forward

Although it seems like only yesterday that Life Funds for North Korean Refugees started its Foster Parent / Education Programme, it was actually begun back in 1998. The intervening ten years have seen the Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-Hyun administrations’ Sunshine Policy and policy of engagement of North Korea turn into de facto support for the Kim Jong Il regime. However, with the February election of the hard-nosed, pragmatic Lee Myung-Bak administration, the relationship between South and North looks set to change to one of reciprocity.

Letter to China’s Hu on Behalf of 4 NK Prisoners

From North Korea Freedom Coalition

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President, People’s Republic of China
c/o His Excellency Zhou Wenzhong
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20008

Dear Mr. President:

Hurry-Up Trial in China for NK Activist

Trial Set for Monday, Nov. 26

Your quick help is needed – Please immediately write to the Chinese authorities listed below, urging them to release the very brave North Korean activist, Yoo Sang-joon, who is now a South Korean citizen. He tragically lost his young son as he tried to escape from China and has since been working to rescue other North Koreans from danger in China.

Sample Letter of Protest

To the President of China

Dear President Hu Jintao,

The international community continues to watch in horror as the Chinese government tracks down and deports North Korean refugees in advance of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. This practice is a stain on the face of China. We urge you to immediately cease arresting and repatriating North Korean refugees.

Demonstrations Planned to Save North Korean Refugees

Protests Planned Worldwide

Suzanne Scholte of the North Korea Freedom Coalition writes:

Please remember the International Protest Against China’s Violent Treatment of North Korean Refugees will be occurring around the world at noon on November 30 and December 1 at Chinese consulates and embassies.  We need everyone to join and support these events as the situation in China is worse than ever for North Korean refugees.

Human Trafficking Victim – Choi Chong-mi

Name:            Choi Chong-mi
(Female, Name changed for safety)
Birth date:    1969
Hometown:   Hamgyong Bukto

It is an unending nightmare. I don’t know how to begin telling everything that has happened to me. It will probably sound like fiction to you. When I was two years old, following the death of my father, I was taken in by four aunts and an uncle. My cousins were like my parents, sisters and brother.

Human Trafficking Victim – Lee Sun Ja

Name:                 Lee Sun Ja
(Female, Name changed for safety)
Date of Birth:  1981
Hometown:      Hamgyong Bukto, North Korea

When I was three years old, my parents suddenly disappeared. Nobody knows if they died or if they were sent into a concentration camp for political prisoners. My step-parents treated me worse than a beast. I was hardly fed daily, so I grew up as a beggar. Since I remained a Kot-jebi (street child) until I escaped into China, I never had a chance to go to a school. In North Korea, while I was living the Kot-jebi life, I begged but I also broke into houses to steal from time to time.

Proposed Action Plan for 2007-2008

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, NGO

Strained Relations

The crackdown on North Korean refugees by both the Chinese and North Korean governments has drastically cut the flow of North Koreans into China, reducing it to levels below those of the past decade. China’s official position is that North Korean refugees do not exist, a stance that blatantly ignores international law, including the Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which it is a signatory nation.

Escapee from North Korea Sold as Slave to a Sex Chat Site

First, Banished to the Middle of Nowhere for Watching a South Korean Movie

Hwang Miryon, 19
Former Chongjin University student

(Name changed to protect her safety)

My family was relatively well-off even in Chongjin, but in August 2005 we were suddenly struck by misfortune, something we could never have imagined. It all started when a family with whom we were friends was arrested on charges of watching a foreign film. An acquaintance of the wife was arrested by the “109 Brigade” and before we knew it they had come for us as well.

Human Rights Activist Kim Sang Hun

Sang Hun Kim, International Human Rights Volunteer

Mr. Kim’s Speech:

Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the International Community of Human Rights NGOs and Activists, Respected Members of News Media, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to thank you for your interest in the human rights disaster that North Korea has created, and for the innocent victims it has created. 

Appeal to National Human Rights Commission of Thailand

Presented on Behalf of North Korean Refugees Detained in Thailand

INTRODUCTION

We are a group of human rights organizations and activists based in Thailand, Japan, Korea and other countries. We have just attended the International Conference in Thailand, September 17-21, 2007, on the North Korean Human Rights Situation. The Conference has reviewed the situation of North Koreans in Thailand along with addressing other related issues.

US Lawmakers Call for Boycott of Beijing Olympics

US Lawmakers Introduce Legislation

Legislation was introduced in the U.S. Congress by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (CA-46th) and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Joseph Pitts, Thaddeus McCotter, John Doolittle, Dan Burton, Frank Wolf, and Chris Smith, calling for the U.S. government to take steps to boycott the Beijing Olympics unless the Chinese regime stops its human rights abuses against its own citizens and other nations. 

NK Defector Couple Face Death… or Life

Special Field Report

One of LFNKR’s local staff members went to Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, in the Jilin Province of China recently to interview a couple who, in hopes of reaching Japan, had decided in early 2007 to escape from North Korea. The husband and wife (names are not disclosed for their protection) were just children when their parents, ethnic Koreans born in Japan, moved to North Korea, expecting to find the “Paradise on the earth” that was being touted in a widespread campaign to attract immigrants. The husband had been 6 years old and his wife only 1 year old when their parents made the move. 

Street Beggar’s Ambition: Start a Business

Street Child (Kot-Jebi) Tells His Story  
Just as I was coming out of a North Korean restaurant, I noticed a small boy, who appeared to be a beggar, following me. I was in Yanbian on business, and it was May 15 of this year. The boy suddenly stepped in front of me and said, “I’m from North Korea. Please help me.”

Girl, 17, Tells of Two Years in Sexual Slavery

The Fate of a Young Girl
Kim Chun Hwa was an 11-year-old girl when she first arrived at LFNKR’s Shelter JRD-01. It was February 2001 and threatening to drop to below minus 20 degrees. Chun Hwa’s mother was from Musan, North Korea, in North Hamgyong Province. Musan sits directly across the Tumen River from this small Chinese farming village. Chun Hwa’s quick intelligence and bright smile made a lasting impression. 

2 Tons of Rice Distributed to Poor in Hamgyong

This report is by Kim Hong-son, one of LFNKR’s local staff members. He writes:

In February of this year, I passed through the Chinese customs office at Kosong and headed for North Korean customs. Passing through Chinese customs took a mere 30 minutes, but on the North Korean side it took over three hours. The reason for this is the North Korean customs inspection process, which begins with a verification of relatives living in North Korea, and involves a full-body search in addition to an inspection of the goods being brought into the country.

Report from a Refugee Who Made It Back

No One Said Fitting into Japanese Society Would Be Easy

Mr. Park went to North Korea with his family when he was four years old. The family went to Onson County in North Hamgyong Province, where they were assigned to a coal mining operation. Then, in 1999, he fled to China to escape the food shortages and starvation that had plagued the country throughout the 1990s. Park found, however, that life in China was very hard due to his illegal status. One employer made off with Park’s wages, leaving him without a single yuan and in despair. 

International Protest Slated for April 28, 2007

To Save North Korean Refugees

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) urges each person reading this to take part in the International Protest against China’s Violent Treatment of North Korean Refugees. This Protest, led by NORTH KOREA FREEDOM COALITION, is scheduled to be held all around the World on April 28. North Korean refugees who escape into China seeking food and freedom immediately encounter a new problem – the constant fear of arrest and repatriation by Chinese authorities.

North Korea Freedom Week Slated for US Capital this April

From Suzanne Scholte, North Korean Freedom Coalition

Below is a list of the public events being held the week of April 22-29 to promote the freedom, human rights and dignity of the North Korean people. At the bottom of this page you will also find an invitation to Defense Forum Foundation’s Forum on Capitol Hill with North Korean Defectors on Friday, April 27. North Korea Freedom Week is just a few days away! Please help us promote attendance at these events by spreading the word. 

Former NK Orphan Sends Thanks Email in English

Hungry to Learn

LFNKR members were excited to receive a series of emails in English from one of our former foster children, a North Korean orphan whom we sheltered in China, then helped escape to safety in South Korea. The young man, Chol Song Kim, was born 5 Feb. 1985. Although Chol Song received the bare minimum of education during his years of hiding, now that he is safe in South Korea, he is eagerly making up for lost time. He recently went to Australia for a short, intensive English course.

Abandoned Children in China

Many Problems Confront Children of North Korean Mothers and Chinese Fathers

The international community has grown uncomfortably aware, over the past decade, of the many problems confronting North Korean defectors. The most urgent of these include capture by Chinese police and forced repatriation, as well as the need to find a way to a safe third country such as South Korea for resettlement.

Choi Yong-hun Home from Chinese Prison

Friends greet Choi at airport

Friends greet Choi at airport

Following 3 years and 10 months of Chinese “hospitality”, Choi Yong-hun is back home in South Korea, reunited with his family.

International Protest Day – Sample Letter

Citizens Worldwide Mail Protests

This coming winter, the number of starving North Korean refugees escaping into China is expected to increase, particularly in light of the major flooding in North Korea.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government continues to hunt down and repatriate North Korean refugees, while also arresting humanitarian aid workers. We must persist in our protests against Chinese government actions in order to save the starving North Korean refugees.

December 2 has been set as a day for simultaneous worldwide protest. Here in Japan, LFNKR and other groups involved in the rescue of North Korean refugees will stage a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in this country.

You can join us by sending protest email to the Chinese embassy in your country.

Here is a list of embassy addresses.

And below is a sample letter you can use as a guideline when writing your own letter.


 

Sample Letter:

Dear President Hu Jintao,

Please immediately stop arresting and repatriating North Korean refugees.

On Dec. 2, many citizens’ groups in Europe, the USA, South Korea, and Japan are simultaneously doing joint protests in front of Chinese embassies in their countries. The purpose that we share, which surpasses race, religion, and ideology, is to help the lives and human rights of the people seeking to escape from starvation and oppression in North Korea.

It is widely known that yearly tens of thousands of North Korean defectors have escaped into China for more than a decade. The Chinese government, however, has ignored the voices of the international community urging your government to immediately stop repatriating North Korean refugees and to cease arresting the aid workers who try to help them.

It is also widely known that a staggering number of North Korean women are victims of human trafficking in China and that even when they marry Chinese men and bear children, most of them are still arrested and sent back to North Korea. The children born of these marriages often remain without nationality and are therefore denied an education. Your government continues mercilessly depriving those innocent children of their mothers and of their basic human rights.

These are not only inhumane acts, they violate the Refugees Convention to which your country is signatory. This fact seriously dishonors China in the international community.

I urge the Chinese government to:

  1. immediately stop arresting, detaining or repatriating North Korean refugees and duly to protect them in your country under the supervision of UNHCR or other related international organization, and to assure them safe passage to third countries if they wish to leave.
  2. immediately free the currently detained North Korean refugees and humanitarian aid workers, and
  3. grant Chinese nationality to North Korean defectors who marry Chinese citizens as well as to their children, and allow them to settle in China.

(Your name)

 

 

NEWS FLASH: Choi Yong-hun Released Today

Jailed in China for 3 years, 10 months

BREAKING NEWS: Choi Yong-hun, the South Korean humanitarian aid worker imprisoned by China for nearly 4 years left prison today and flew back home to South Korea. Choi was met at Incheon Airport this evening by close family members. And although he appears extremely weak following his imprisonment, he took the time to express his thanks to all those around the world who have supported him with their prayers, letters and other contributions.

Chinese Border Guards Videotaped Shooting Religious Pilgrims

China Still Violating Basic Human Rights

As a citizen’s group deeply involved in human rights, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) has long called for more rapid improvement of human rights in China.

At the end of September, for example, Chinese border guards were videotaped firing upon a group of Tibetan pilgrims, including nuns and juvenile priests. At least two of the pilgrims were killed, prompting growing criticism of China by the international community.

Family of Jailed Humanitarian Worker Struggling

Kim Bong-soon, wife of jailed humanitarian aid worker Choi Jong-hun

Kim Bong Soon’s Letter

Hello, I am Kim Bong Soon, the wife of Choi Yong-hun.

My husband was arrested by the Chinese police in January 2003 for helping North Korean refugees and was sent to prison for 5 years. Today, he remains confined in the Weifang Prison, Shandong Province, China after serving 46 months of a 60-month sentence. He suffers from worsening chronic diabetes, hypertension, and asthma because of the poor living conditions in the prison.

LFNKR Action Plan for FY 2006-2007

Overview

Last year, a single charter flight from Vietnam carried 460 North Koreans into South Korea. This case had a strong impact on the international community and spotlighted North Korea’s human rights problems. It remains to be seen, however, what lessons it has taught the South Korean government, which fears a similar incident occurring in Thailand.

Suji’s Letter to Her Father

Choi Yong-hun with his two daughters

From the Daughter of a Jailed Humanitarian

Hi, I am Suji, the eldest daughter of Choi Yong-hun.

On the first of November 2002, our family of four moved to China, where my younger sister and I began settling in to our new life there. We started school in January 2003. But just two months after our move to China, our father was arrested by the Chinese police for attempting to help some North Korean refugees. I had trouble believing he had been arrested since the media were reporting that he had been helping a group of refugees from North Korea.

LFNKR Activity Report – FY 2005-2006

Annual Report 2006

Activity Report – Fiscal Year 2005-2006  

Pressure on the North Korean government by the international community is increasing thanks to greater international awareness of the grave human rights abuses committed by the North Korean government, in addition to the refugee and abductee issues.

Summer Clothes Are Survival Gear

The Right Clothes Make a Person Invisible

For North Korean refugees hiding in China, the wrong clothes can mean arrest, repatriation and hard prison time. That is why their aim is to blend in, look like the Chinese locals, and escape notice. When warmer weather comes, if they are seen still wearing winter clothing, the Chinese police notice it immediately. Being noticed by the police automatically means arrest for them, followed quickly by forcible return to North Korea where harsh punishment awaits them.

Wife Reports on Imprisoned NK Refugee Aid Worker

No Early Release in Sight

Even though the United States recently accepted 6 North Korean refugees, marking a dramatic change in the situation of North Korean refugees, nothing has changed for Choi Yong-hun, the South Korean Humanitarian aid worker. He still sits in a jail cell in China, after having served 3 years and 4 months of a 5-year sentence. He is still being punished for his attempt to help North Korean refugees in China.

4 NGO Members Named in NK Arrest Warrants

Two LFNKR Members on the List

Japanese news media are reporting that North Korea has issued arrest warrants for four Japanese NGO workers. The men have reportedly been named as suspects in the abduction of North Korean citizens. The North Korean Ministry of People’s Security, announced on 27 March 2006 the issue of arrest warrants and notified the Japanese government via diplomatic channels, demanding that the four be handed over to North Korean custody.

No Mercy, No Justice for NK Mothers and Children

Mother of 5-year-old Repatriated to North Korea

In February, 2006, the mother of 5-year-old Kim Yong-soon was arrested and repatriated to North Korea. Six years ago, the mother, a young North Korean woman who had fled the country of her birth, was sold into a forced marriage to a Chinese man. She quickly became pregnant and gave birth to daughter Kim Yong-soon. This daughter, Yong-soon is being supported under LFNKR’s foster parent program. 

Interview with NK Border Shelter Staff Members

Human Trafficking and Starvation

Recently an LFNKR staff member visited some of the shelters in China being run clandestinely by this NGO. The following interview with a few local staffers working at one of the shelters brings us information about the recent food situation in North Korea and the victims of human trafficking.

In the interview, “LFNKR” indicates one of our people dispatched from Japan who interviewed “Local staffers,” who are the people actually caring for North Korean refugees and orphans living in our shelters in China.