Category Archives: Defectors
On February 13, the world was rocked by news that Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-un, had been assassinated using VX, a highly toxic liquid nerve agent, at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia. The Sunday Express (British online newspaper), in its March 12 issue, reported that Kim Jong-un is also thought to have personally ordered the assassination of a British national and an American in retaliation for assisting Thae Yong-ho, formerly North Korea’s deputy ambassador to London, when he defected to the West in August last year.
Russia Set to Deport NK Refugee
LFNKR faxed petitioning letters to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in France, the Russian Embassy in Tokyo, and related human rights groups asking to save the life of a North Korean refugee named Choi Myung-bok.
Mr. Choi was recently arrested by police in Russia, and the court’s ruling on his deportation is scheduled to be handed down on 10 February.
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.
Global Festa Japan 2016 was held at Odaiba in Tokyo on October 1st and 2nd. This annual event was jointly hosted by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and several other Japanese governmental organizations. The major purpose of the festival, an International Cooperation Day, is to promote awareness of the need for the international cooperation and the importance of joint efforts between the governmental and citizen groups, as well as NGOs. During the two-day event, 269 organizations and groups participated and about 100,000 people visited.
5 Years Later
By K. Matsubara (alias) – Former North Korean Refugee
A Korean proverb says that “mountains and rivers change in 10 years.” It obviously means that 10 years is a long time and brings big changes. Then, what changes have my husband and I experienced in the past 5 years since we finally entered Japan?
Actually, we have gone through many, many changes. For a while after coming to Japan, everything seemed new to us and difficult to get used to. But now, we can handle most things without asking for help. Although we have not yet achieved our biggest goal, I feel that we have achieved great growth both spiritually and financially. And we are now able to help other North Korean people needing assistance.
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.
By K.K. (a former North Korean refugee)
Back in April, LFNKR had a cherry blossom viewing party. At this party were members of LFNKR and also some of the former North Korean defectors who have resettled here in Japan. The following is a brief article we received from one of the North Korean participants. It was she who prepared and brought the unique spicy North Korean “inari-sushi” (fried bean-curd stuffed with boiled rice).
I was born in North Korea, and I was able to come to Japan, thanks to Japanese humanitarian aid. At that time I knew absolutely nothing about the cultures or traditions of any other country.
Near the end of March this year, we at LFNKR got some exciting news. Miss K.H., whom we have mentioned here before (see links below), had just passed Japan’s very difficult National Nursing Exam, and she was writing to tell us of her experiences:
Thanks to the support and help that the people around me have extended, I passed the National Nursing Examination!
Refugee Tells Her Story
On Feb. sixth and seventh LFNKR participated in the One World Festival held in Osaka, Japan to help boost the public’s awareness of the many human rights abuses that continue in North Korea.
At the yearly One World Festival, NGO/NPOs, international institutions, local administration and companies involved in international cooperation gather together to tell about their activities, and to hold symposia and panel discussions on such issues as peace, human rights and the environment.
The following is a brief summary of the report prepared by Mr. K.G., a member of LFNKR. It describes the testimony presented by Ms. Koh Jeong Mee, a former NK defector.
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
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.
Tokyo the Site of 18th Annual Meeting
A report on LFNKR activities during the past year was presented at the Annual Meeting. Perhaps the single most important issue is how the past several years have brought significant changes to the conditions facing North Korean refugees. Part of the change is due to the drastically tightened crackdown along the China-North Korea border. The crackdown is particularly stringent on the North Korea side, making it increasingly difficult to escape from North Korea.
In fact, over the past two years, rescue operations for assisting North Korean defectors in reaching safe third countries have fallen to almost nothing. This is new to our organization. The focus of our activities, therefore, has already begun shifting away from rescue operations, although we still stand ready to assist any NK refugees wherever possible. Now the emphasis is increasingly on helping former defectors resettle in Japan and on generating publicity to help boost public awareness of the human rights abuses in North Korea. This includes the publication of books related to the human rights outrages in that country.
Among those attending the Annual Meeting were four former North Korean defectors, Mr. I.K, Miss K.H, Miss J.L, and Baby Sumi’s mother, who each presented updates on their life in Japan now.
Mr. I.K. and his family were the first North Korean family that LFNKR helped to escape and resettle in Japan (1999). He and his wife are now running a successful business, a thriving guest house, in Osaka.
Refer to previous article: Settling and Surviving in Japan.
Miss K.H. said that she is studying very hard in preparation for the national nursing qualification exam coming in March.
Refer to previous article: Set a Goal and Tackle it for Best Results:
Miss J.L. is attending a dental hygienist college in Tokyo and also works as a part-time assistant at a dental office. She has had overcome hardships, including being arrested in Laos as she made her way to Japan. However, once in Japan, in barely two years she passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam, Level One. She has surprised us all, speaking almost perfect and fluent Japanese.
And baby Sumi’s mother showed us new pictures of Sumi, now 4 years old, dancing happily at her preschool. In addition to the new business, Sumi’s mother told us, she has also recently started a group to provide mutual aid among North Korean women who have resettled in Japan.
Please see Baby Sumi Celebrates First Birthday.
Listening to the speeches of these courageous people, we were deeply impressed by their great efforts. We are very proud of them and of all of those we have rescued.
Steady Progress in 3 Careers
Fear Spreading Among High Officials
Chang Song-thaek, the once-powerful uncle of Kim Jong-Un and former number two in North Korea’s power structure, was arrested and executed in December 2013. Since then, power struggles and purges have grown in the country. According to reports filtering out, the ongoing investigations, purges and executions are often directed toward officials responsible for the earning of foreign currencies. So widespread have these practices become that they are now cutting a swath through mid-level management. Increasing numbers of officials are falling before this reign of terror. The instability of the regime has even had a dampening effect on the economic activities of the general populace.
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).
7 Sent to Labor Camp, 2 Executed
An Example of NK’s “Humanitarian” Treatment of Defectors
In June of 2013, we reported on 9 orphans who made it all the way out of North Korea, across China, and into Laos before they were arrested and repatriated to the brutal regime they were trying to escape. (See “World Community Outraged by Orphans Returned to NK“)
Now, news is starting to filter out about what happened to them. The Dong A Ilbo website in South Korea reports that of the nine young escapees, two were executed, and the other seven sent to the infamous Prison Camp 14.
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.
UN Lays Open NK Human Rights Abuses
On February 7, 2014 the United Nations released a 36-page report produced by its Commission of Inquiry based upon many hours of eye witness testimony detailing human rights abuses in North Korea. The report is titled “Report of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”
Recruiting Volunteers To Expand Film Screenings
A German director has made a documentary film depicting the harrowing life of a young man who was born and raised in a North Korean political prison camp, and is currently living in South Korea after defecting from North Korea.
Storms of Arrests, Executions Seen
On Nov. 25, one of our local staff members (K-0078) in North Korea sent us a report on the most recent security measures being enacted at the border of Hyesan, Ryanggang-do. In October, North Korea started dispatching special inspection forces from the state security department and the people’s army political department to tighten their border security.
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.
Review by A. P. (an LFNKR director)
“The Defector,” a newly released documentary film follows two young women, Sook Ja and Yong Hee, whose experiences in escaping from North Korea are common to many women who have defected from that country.
The film opens with Sook-ja, whose older sister had left seven years earlier to seek work in China. The sister had planned to send money back to her family. Using an illegal cell phone, Sook-ja tries to contact her elder sister, but this phone call leads to her arrest by the North Korean police. Imprisoned, she vows to escape and flee the country.
UPDATE – July 11th:
The two North Korean women who were waiting for us to escort them to safety were successfully conducted to a safe zone and, once all official processing is completed, will be resettled in South Korea.
2nd UPDATE – August 30th:
The two North Korean women have now safely reached South Korea and are settling in to their new life of freedom.
Heavyweight International Groups Getting Involved
The story of the 9 young orphans summarily shipped back to North Korea by the Lao government has captured the world’s attention and stirred strong emotions around the globe.
Amnesty International has issued an “Urgent Action” document as a call for the world community to take a firm stand against the reckless behavior of the Lao government.
These 9 Orphans Are Only the Latest Outrage
Since 1998, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), a Japanese NGO based in Tokyo, has been engaged in the rescue of North Korean refugees suffering from tragic conditions in China and some Southeast Asian countries.
Reported by Dong-A Ilbo (May 31, 2013):
News outlet Dong-A Ilbo interviewed the pastor who guided the nine North Korean defector orphans during their attempted escape from China to Laos.
We wanted to leave the Lao immigration center because something felt wrong, but the South Korean embassy told us “Stay”
Many Stories of Wanton Cruelty
Last month, LFNKR published the Japanese-language version of the book ‘Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So’ for release in Japan. This book contains facts, information and stories from interviews with 8,934 North Korean defectors, including 81 who had been detained at Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So, more commonly known as the “Death Camp”. Many of the stories include horrifying colored sketches drawn by a few of the former detainees at the Death Camp.
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.
She Says this Website Started it All
Yesterday we received a warm and inspiring email from a lady, Mrs. Linda Dye, in the US, who read a story on this website back in 2007 and did something unusual. She and her husband decided they wanted to do more than just read about North Korean Refugees. They were so inspired, they made up their minds to get personally involved and make a difference.
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.
Boy & Girl Suffering from Tuberculosis
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) is currently caring for a number of North Korean orphans living in the caves of Chanbai Mountain in China’s Jilin Province. Recently LFNKR received a report from our local staff that two of these North Korean orphans are suffering from Tuberculosis.
Cherry-Blossom Party with NK Defectors
On April 8, under a flawless blue sky, LFNKR members gathered at Shinjuku Park, one of the famous cherry-blossom viewing spots in Tokyo, to enjoy an “Ohanami” party under hundreds of cherry trees, all in full bloom. The Ohanami is a Japanese tradition for enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms. Joining the party were many North Korean defectors whom LFNKR has helped and supported in their resettlement in Japan.
Burglaries Rise, Food Shortage Worsens
LFNKR received a seventh flash update on January 9 from a local staff member operating in China. According to his report, the outflow of NK refugees along the Tumen River, which had temporarily ceased, has begun again. Although border security remains strict following the period of mourning that marked the death of Kim Jong-il, a growing number of North Korean refugees are being seen in villages along the Tumen River.
“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.
Entire Family Succeeding
One of LFNKR’s directors is Dr. W, a Zainichi (ethnic Korean resident of Japan). Recently he was invited to visit a former North Korean refugee family. They are the first family that LFNKR ever helped resettle in Japan. When they reached safety in Japan 11 years ago, their daughter was only one year old. In the intervening years, Dr. W has witnessed this family’s hardship and their difficulties securing work in Japan.
– 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.
As part of this organization’s ongoing rescue research activities, we dispatched several of members to the Northern Thailand border area in early July 2010. This is the so-called “Golden Triangle” area encompassing parts of Laos, Myanmar and Northern Thailand. The area was once famed as a heroin production and trafficking route, but now it is very well known among North Korean refugees as the entryway to sanctuary in Thailand.
NK orphan talks about the movie “Crossing”
At the Jan. 29 preview of the movie “Crossing” in Tokyo, one of LFNKR’s foster children joined the preview press conference to talk about her experiences. An orphan, she had lost her parents to starvation in North Korea, but is now a university student in South Korea. LFNKR members are happy see that she has grown into such a fine lady. The movie apparently reminded her of her own childhood.
Although Thailand is not the final destination for North Korean defectors flowing into this country, this flow is currently the largest in the world, outside of China. The numbers have steadily increased over the past several years. According to the Thai government, about 1,000 North Korean defectors were detained here in 2007. From 2008 and after, the Thai government stopped publicly announcing numbers, but my estimation is about 1,500 in 2008 and a bit higher in 2009.
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.
Special Report by S. Yee
For a long while now, I have been keenly interested in what happens to North Koreans who have resettled in the USA via a third country. This is partly because I have been involved with Life Funds for North Korean Refugees in protecting and helping North Korean defectors in Southeast Asia. I wondered if there was anything I could do to help those who were headed for America, so when I had the opportunity in April and May to visit the US, I decided to find out how they are doing.
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.
Agenda for Tokyo Seminar
“North Korean Children Beyond the Border” a documentary film (20minutes) to be played continuously as people enter…
Hiroshi Kato, Secretariat
Director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR)
|14:00||State of Human Rights in Asia
Tokyo Director of Human Rights Watch
|14:20||Human Trafficking Forum
Stories from the victims
Opening remarks – Introduction
Testimony from victims
Participants Q & A
Trafficked North Korean women and their Children in China
Director of International Relations, LFNKR
The invisible trafficking to China from Kachin State in Myanmar
Director of Kachin Women’s Association in Thailand
Trafficking of North Koreans in China
Representative of Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition Japan
Reception condition of women and children asylum seekers in Japan
Secretary general of Japan Association for Refugees
Resettlement of North Korean Women and children in Japan
Representative of Society to Help Returnees to North Korea
Refugees and Human Rights in Asia