Category Archives: LFNKR

Intern Gains Experience with LFNKR

Japan Members, ICNK (International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea)

Report by LFNKR’s Lobbying Intern

Becoming an intern with one phone call

My name is Yuzuru Sakaguchi, and I have been an intern with LFNKR since August 1st. I came to Tokyo from Nagano, and I am currently living on my own in the city. In the summer of my second year of high school I started studying the Korean Peninsula, because I was moved by a sense of wanting to see justice accomplished and that, “something must be done.…” I still vividly remember feeling appalled as I watched exclusive footage of North Korea on television, and even now that sense of wanting justice remains in my heart.

Two Orphans Require Rescue

 

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 Viewing Party in Tokyo

The cherry blossom viewing party in Shinjuku

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.

NK to Launch a Rocket Soon

Gwangmyunsung-3 Missile

Since its founding in 1998, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), a Japanese citizen’s group, has devoted itself to supplying food, clothing, and medical goods directly to starving North Korean people.

After nearly 14 years of continuing efforts, we still see no improvement in the food shortage, nor a reduction in human rights violations in North Korea. The outflow of people desperate enough to flee their fatherland for other countries has not abated.

Food Prices Still Unstable in NK

January Market Prices in DPRK

Prices shown in this chart were gathered in our own privately conducted survey in Chongjin City, Onsong , Hamgyon Prov. and Hyesan Ryanggang Prov.

North Korean Public Voicing Complaints

 

News Update from Inside NK

LFNKR received a further update on January 11 from a local staff member operating in North Korea. He reports that the public has begun openly speaking less reverently of the country’s leadership and especially the ruling Kim family itself. North Korea recently enforced a special security period, which ended January 10. During that period, Kim Jong-un, who serves as Supreme Commander of the People’s Army, visited and inspected a tank corps for the New Year.

North Korea Declares Martial Law after Kim Jong-il Dies

 

Security Clamp-down

At 16:00 on Dec. 21 (Japan time), our office received a flash report from a local LFNKR staff member stationed in North Hamgyong, North Korea. According to this report, martial law has been declared in the North Hamgyong area.

Mourn Not for Kim Jong-il

 

Mourn Instead for his Victims

On Dec. 28 in Pyongyang a funeral will be held for Kim Jong-il. As do most of those involved in the North Korean human rights issue, we at LFNKR strongly feel that this funeral should commemorate the victims of Kim Jong-il and his brutal regime. We call upon the world – mourn not for this dead dictator.

All Year-End Events Cancelled in NK

 

In the afternoon of Dec. 22, our office received another report from our local LFNKR staff member in North Korea. The authorities in that country are cracking down and tracking all cellular phone signals originating from made-in-China cell phones being used in North Korea. Thus, the conversation between the local staff member and our office was necessarily much shorter than usual.

LFNKR Annual Report Released for 2011

Introduction

The new currency system initiated in November 2009 by North Korea has led to serious confusion in the country’s economy. As a result, poverty continues to deepen. Around November 2010, even in Pyongyang where relatively privileged people live, the supply of food has stopped. The currency revaluation slashed the currency to 1/100 of its previous value, but by March 2011, the price of rice per kilogram had risen to 1800 NKW. This is the same price it was before currency reform, and it indicates a complete failure of the government’s plan to suck money from its citizens.

Food Prices Still on the Rise in NK

  

The chart below shows results of a pricing survey carried out independently by LFNKR local staff members in North Korea.

Classes Teach NK Refugees Language, Social Skills

North Korean Refugees Complete First Japanese Language Course

1. How the Course Came About

Currently, 200 North Korean refugees have settled in Japan, and this number continues to grow steadily. To help refugees merge more easily into Japanese society, it is essential to establish and promote various forms of aid, the most crucial being Japanese language training. Despite the need, this country’s government has, so far, developed no plan to aid North Korean refugees in their settlement. Consequently, such aid has only been provided on a small scale, and left solely to the initiative of private volunteer groups or the self-help efforts of the refugees themselves.

Korean Food Booth Helps Raise Funds

LFNKR launched a new effort - a Korean food booth - with menu items including a selection of the most popular Korean dishes

Korean Food Booth

Global Festival Japan was held at Tokyo’s Hibiya Park on Oct. 1st and 2nd, 2011. Festival sponsors included a number of Japanese government organizations, The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, and The National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan. Every year, more than 200 groups involved in a variety of issues join the Festival. Typically, these groups deal with human rights matters, child labor abuse, and poverty problems.

International Conference Gets Tough on NK

Download this ICNK Coalition Statement

On Sept. 8, some 40 human rights groups from 15 nations gathered in Tokyo to set up a nongovernmental organization called “The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity In North Korea” (ICNK). Four of LFNKR’s directors attended the conference.

Rice Thieves Being Shot in NK

Rice, the staple food in NK, is in desperately short supply

The Proclamation of Penalties for Stealing Rice quoted below first appeared in the 2010 North Korean Human Rights White Paper, following its appearance that year in official Korean documents. Previously, the punishment for stealing grain had only been known from scattered defector testimony. Verification in the form of a proclamation from the North Korean security apparatus is a significant new development.

Current Consumer Prices in NK

 

North Korean Situation

It is believed that although virtually no one is currently dying of hunger in DPRK, many are bordering on the edge of starvation. Most people are managing to stay alive under the present circumstances, but of course it is impossible to predict what will happen in the future.

Toothbrushes to Tsunami Victims

North Korean defector donated 20,000 toothbrushes to tsunami victims

A North Korean defector couple have donated 20,000 toothbrushes to victims of the recent tsunami. When the Great Earthquake struck Eastern Japan on March 11, I was in an office in Osaka City. An office worker at a nearby desk suddenly cried, “Earthquake!” Another man who was there went outside to listen to his car radio. He shouted, “There’s a 6-meter tsunami warning!”

Nonstop television broadcasts showed unimaginable misery. The people who lived in the affected area must have grown up hearing about the dangers of tsunamis from the elderly… but I could not put those thoughts into words. Then, even after the tsunami seemed to be over, it struck a second time, and a third.

LFNKR Translates White Paper on NK Human Rights

  

LFNKR announces its translation into Japanese of the 410-page “White Paper on Human Rights” published by the Korea Institute for National Unification. This is the first time a Japanese version of the white paper has been available. The paper, originally published in the Korean language in 2010, is a detailed report on human rights issues in North Korea. We believe that the translated version will help more Japanese understand the human rights situation in North Korea.

Food Prices Rising in North Korea

Current Prices in DPRK

Price research conducted by Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Surveyed: Morning of June 12, 2011
Data Released: 13th June
Research in Onsong and Chonjin North Hamgyong Province

Food Price List for DPRK

Patients Dying from Lack of Basic Surgical Supplies in NK

Surgery Done without Anesthesia 

A local LFNKR staff member in North Korea in charge of medical support spoke with a Japanese surgeon recently. The surgeon said that even if a doctor is very good, there was no way to perform operations successfully without postoperative management or the required sterile instruments, disinfecting, antibiotics and transfusions. It was even stated that antibiotics might not be necessary after operations if wounds were uninfected, because these days operations are done in clean environments.

Hand Knitted Gifts for North Korean Refugees

  

Founding a supporting group

About a year ago, we briefly reported on a Ms. Warmheart, who hand-knits warm caps, scarfs and mittens for North Korean orphans. Since then, she has started a support group to encourage others to join this hand-knitting project of hers. The following is about one of the ladies in her group.

Paper Cranes for Japan’s Restoration

Read how folding paper cranes can help rebuild Japan

Empowering Our Youth

Ordinarily we don’t mention specific charities or fund raising groups, but this initiative involving students is so unique and delightful that we decided you’d probably want to hear about it. The 100,000 Paper Cranes to Rebuild Japan project was brought to our attention by a friend in the US.

Kato Answers Emails of Concern

In Answer to All Your Emails - From LFNKR's Kato Hiroshi
Since March 11, Japan has experienced an unprecedented series of catastrophic events. The emails pouring in to LFNKR from our friends both in Japan and abroad have been asking if we are safe, as well as offering encouragement and assistance. All of us at LFNKR deeply appreciate your concern and your kindness.

Young NK Refugees Thriving in Japan

Excelling in Japanese Language Studies

On February 15, LFNKR members were excited to hear that Hyun Ki* and Ae Sook* had received high level certificates in the national Japanese language certification exam, which they took back in December. Both are 26-year-old former North Korean refugees, and both reached Japan 3 years ago with the help of LFNKR.

Dog Boosts Donations at Rally

Dog Boosts Donations at Rally

Helpful Dog, Momoko, Plays Important Role in Fundraising

On Oct. 23, in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, a large-scale rally was held in support of rescuing victims abducted by North Korea. Hosted by the metropolitan assembly legislator coalition and Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea (Japanese NGO), a rally for rescuing the victims abducted by North Korea was held on Oct. 23 at the square in front of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office.

LFNKR Annual Report Released

Introduction

When North Korea suddenly switched to a new currency in November 2009, the low limit for exchanges ensured that any savings accumulated in old currency by North Koreans largely vanished. This demonstrates that although the developing private market activity had only reached a rudimentary level, it was possible for people to accumulate new wealth. This growing segment of newly wealthy was dominating distribution and their voices began to be heard in their communities.

LFNKR Initiating Starvation Relief Campaign

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.

Visit to Bangkok’s Immigrant Detention Center

Front gate of Thailand's IDC (Immigration Detention Center), where they await forwarding to South Korea, the US or Japan.

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.

US State Dept. Honors LFNKR’s Kato

US State Department presented Kato their Freedom Defender Award on 26 April 2010

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.

Food Prices Out of Control in NK

Excerpt from LFNKR Internal Report  

The following is taken from an April 10, 2010 report from a local LFNKR staff member working in North Korea.  The report examines rising prices in the North Korean provinces of Chonjin, Musan, and Haesan during the 11 days from March 30th through April 10th.

To celebrate the 98th birthday of the late dictator Kim Il-sung (born April 15, 1912), the North Korean government distributed 7 kilograms of food to each person.  According to our worker, the local government in North Hamgyong Province had to pull stockpiled rice out of its second military warehouse.  This is unprecedented.  Food shortages are obviously critical now.  North Koreans are now whispering that the starvation of the late 90’s may be returning.

Insane price increases for food illustrate how desperately unstable the North Korean economy has become.  The day the LFNKR staff member checked food prices in Musan, for example, prices were wildly higher than they had been just four months earlier.

Specifically, wheat flour was now almost 25 times higher. Rice was nearly 8 times more expensive. And corn prices had multiplied almost 5 times during the four-month period.  The prices are rising not just day-to-day, but even by the hour. Those who don’t buy in the morning often have to pay more in the afternoon.  The extremely volatile food prices are a clear indicator of the chaos rampant in North Korea.  The failure of the recent currency reform adds to the people’s distrust of their own money.

Our local staff member reported that, amidst the currency reform failure, one bank president in Yanggang-do was recently executed for his failure to implement the reform.

The report also mentions that 5% of the soldiers of the sixth army corps located in North Hamgyong suffer from severe malnutrition and beriberi.  Soldiers with beriberi symptoms are sent home, since the army has no medical facilities to treat the disease.  Some have reportedly taken advantage of their temporary leave to escape into China.

LFNKR Dispatches 2 Members to UN Working Group

LFNKR sends open Letter to Japan's Prime Minister Hatoyama

LFNKR, together with three other human rights groups, has sent a letter of recommendations to Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on Japan’s policy toward North Korea’s human rights and refugees.

Read the full text of the letter here.

Medicines for NK Refugees Detained in Thailand

Chiang Saen, Thailand

Mr. Tomoharu Ebihara and an LFNKR staff member visited the Chiang Saen Police Station in northern Thailand to donate non-prescription medicines, blankets, and other items for North Korean refugees being detained there. Mr. Ebihara works at Thailand-Japan center, Payap University in Chiang Mai and also heads The Association for the Rescue of North Korea Abductees, Chiangmai (ARNKA).

LFNKR Seeks Closer Ties with UN

Application for ECOSOC Status
Report Submitted to Human Rights Council

Resolving the various human rights issues related to North Korea requires the understanding and cooperation of the international community. With this in mind, Life Funds has recently been working to build and deepen ties to the United Nations.

US NGO Report – ‘Lives for Sale’

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.

Protesting NK Resident’s Organization in Japan

Nuclear Tests, Abductions, Human Rights Violations an Outrage

North Korea continues to ignore the UN resolutions and has repeatedly committed outrageous misconducts, such as the nuclear bomb tests and the ballistic missile launches.? My resentment has risen beyond the critical level.? I now feel that we definitely must do something to stop them.

Unexpected Gifts of Love for Foster Children

Hand-knitted scarves, hats, mittens donated by "Ms Warmheart"

Early Christmas Gifts from US Warm LFNKR Members’ Hearts, Too

On July 3, a package filled with knitted goods arrived at the LFNKR office in Tokyo. They were sent by a lady in the US, who knitted them all herself.

She wrote that as she knitted, she pictured the finished gloves, mufflers and caps warming the North Korean foster children who are in LFNKR’s education sponsorship program.

Financial Crunch Also Hits LFNKR

Feeling the Financial Crisis

Falling donations are slashing LFNKR’s rescue activities. This means disaster for many of the North Korean refugees now waiting for help. In fact, we can do less and less for them as our operating funds shrink. It’s a fact that most NGOs in Japan now face financial crisis. LFNKR is, unfortunately, no exception.  Some large-scale organizations command huge financial support from religious or political sources. We do not.

What Repatriated NK Refugees Must Endure

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.

SK President’s Policies Ignore Refugees

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. 

Tokyo Seminar on Refugees and Human Rights in Asia

On March 14, the Tokyo Seminar on Refugees and Human Rights in Asia was held at the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Global Space.

LFNKR (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) co-hosted the seminar with the Society to Help Returnees to North Korea. Also participating were speakers from Kachin Women’s Association in Thailand, Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition Japan, Human Rights Watch Tokyo, and Japan Association for Refugees.

Part 2 of Kim Chun Gun’s Story

His Dream – to Own a Yakitori Restaurant

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.

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.

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.

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.

Report on LFNKR Activities in FY 2007-2008

Annual Activities Report

Introduction

For the Beijing Olympics held in August 2008, the Chinese and North Korean authorities continued their strict crackdown on North Korean defectors in the border areas and in China.  The crackdown was so strict that even the transportation of public supplies were mostly prohibited.

Nevertheless, the inflow of North Korean defectors into China has not stopped, although the scale of the inflow is smaller than that during the period from late 1990s to early 2000s.  The Chinese government still arrests and repatriates North Korean refugees, knowing that these people will be severely punished if sent back to their own country.

International society still repeatedly protests the repatriations by the Chinese government.  The UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea has not yet been allowed access to conduct a probe of human-rights conditions in North Korea.

However, as the abuse of human rights in North Korea have become more widely disclosed around the world, international pressures on the North Korean government have grown.  For example, many nations have come to question the effectiveness of international food aid to North Korea and stopped responding to requests from the World Food Program (WFP).  There has been a tug of war between North Korea and aiding nations, which have specifically stated that they would provide food aid on condition that the North Korean government allow them to establish monitoring systems to assure their food aid will be properly used.

Reports from LFNKR local staff

According to recent reports from local staff members working at LFNKR’s shelters in the border area and LFNKR local workers in North Korea, the aged and children are starving to death in a village area located three railway stations inland from Musan, North Hamgyong, and deaths from malnutrition and starvation are starting up again in Hamhun, South Hamgyong and Chonjin in North Hamgyong.

Even large, first-tier corporations employing 2,000 or more have had to suspend their operations because they cannot procure materials, meaning that they cannot provide their employees with food. LFNKR has handed food to those people who came to China intending to return to North Korea once they had food.  During the past year, LFNKR has distributed more than 30 tons of food in the border area to these needy North Koreans.

Human Trafficking and Orphans with no Nationality

At least 60% of North Korean defectors are female, and most of them become victims of human trafficking.  Many of them are sold as brides to farmers in inland China because the villages in inland China are suffering from a shortage of marriageable women. Since the Chinese government launched its reform and opening-up policy, many young Chinese women in villages have moved away to urban areas in China, the South China economic bloc, South Korea and Japan where they can earn good pay.

In the Yanbien Korean Autonomous Region, about 8,000 Korean Chinese have been flocking to South Korea each year to work away from home. To fill this void, the Han people have moved into the region from other provinces.  The disappearance of the Korean Autonomous Region is considered only a matter of time.Many of the Chinese farmers to whom North Korean women are sold are incapable of making a living. Often they suffer from metal disorders, or have little sense of social responsibility.  Hence, if their North Korea wives are repatriated, the Chinese husbands tend to abandon any children they have.  This is why the number of children with no nationality is increasing yearly.

One of the major activities of LFNKR is to protect these abandoned children under its education sponsorship program.  LFNKR is happy to see those foster children raised under the program and eventually resettled in South Korea, where they can enjoy satisfying lives, attend university or technical college, and happily marry.[Chronological list of major activities during the last fiscal year]

Summary of Major Activities

  1. Participated in Thai International Conference on North Korean Refugees and Human Rights in North Korea held on Sept. 17-21, 2007
  2. Helped Tokyo Bar Association with their research on human rights in North Korea (Sept. 19, 2007)
  3. Held discussions with Guard Division, Japan Coast Guard (Oct. 2, 2007)
  4. Participated in Global Festival held in Tokyo to publicize the North Korean refugee issue (Oct. 6-7, 2007)
  5. Initiated a rescue plan for North Korean defector, Ms. R, who contacted LFNKR requesting help (Nov. 2, 2007)
  6. Successfully protected North Korean defector, Ms. E (Nov. 8, 2007)
  7. Attended at the 50th anniversary of Arakawa No. 9 Junior High School where North Korean defectors who have settled in Japan attend night classes (Nov. 11, 2007)
  8. Participated in NGO conference during the North Korean Human Rights Abuse Awareness Week (Dec. 14, 2007)
  9. Participated in the conference held in Sendai (city in northern Japan) one of a series of events for the North Korean Human Rights Awareness Week (Dec. 16, 2007)
  10. Mr. Kato, executive director of LFNKR, spoke on the North Korean human rights issue as a guest speaker at Christian University in South Korea (Dec. 20, 2007)
  11. Interviewed by Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN Special Rapporteur on NK Human Rights (Jan. 30, 2008)
  12. LFNKR received the family of a North Korean defector, Mr. K, who safely arrived in Tokyo (Jan. 30, 2008)
  13. Mr. Kato was a guest speaker at the international scholarly conference on North Korean human rights hosted by Christian University in South Korea (March 20, 2008)
  14. Mr. Kato was a guest speaker, at a public meeting hosted by Kanagawa Branch, the National Association for Rescue of Japanese Abducted by North Korea (March 23, 2008)
  15. Demonstrated with banners and placards protesting the North Korean human rights issue at the Olympics torch relay in Nagano, Japan (Apr. 26, 2008)
  16. Held discussions with NK & Beyond Missions International, a British NGO (June 6, 2008)
  17. Met with Open Radio North Korea
  18. Investigated development of a safe southern rescue route

Securing safety and protection of North Korean refugees

LFNKR has maintained a low-profile policy as much as possible in rescuing and protecting North Korean refugees. During the past year, no NGO humanitarian aid workers involved in LFNKR rescue activities has been arrested or held.

Most of LFNKR’s shelters, except for access points in the border area, are located in mountains to avoid the strict crackdown. LFNKR has supplied a total of about 20 tons of rice to more than 700 North Korean defectors and supplied about 500 sets of winter clothing and 2,000 pairs of socks to North Korean defectors.

One of LFNKR’s plans to help North Korean refugees wishing to settle in China is to help them acquire calves, so that they can raise and sell for profit. This should help the refugees become financially independent. This plan has been implemented at a few places in Jilin Province. So far, the plan has gone forward smoothly.

LFNKR has provided five North Korean refugee families (12 people) with protection until they reached safe places, and also helped one family (3 persons) to settle in Japan. LFNKR has assisted about 30 North Korean refugees in settling in South Korea. Among them are daughters of Japanese wives and the children of ethnic Koreans who originally lived in Japan.

Medical Aid

LFNKR distributed 350 family medical kits in North Korea. These medical kits were procured in China and Japan, and each kit includes pain killers, antiphlogistics, nutritional supplements, etc.

Educational Sponsorship Program

Currently, over 20 refugee orphans are protected under the LFNKR educational sponsorship program. Two new shelters have been added. The foster children under the program receive money to cover their living expenses and education expenses from LFNKR through its local staff responsible for the program. The foster parents are notified of how their foster children are doing by letters from the children or by LFNKR newsletters on an irregular basis.

Most of the foster children were born to Chinese men and North Korean women who were victims of human trafficking. These children have no “nationality” because the Chinese government continues to treat their mothers as illegal immigrants. Most of their fathers are incapable of making a living or are indifferent to raising children. Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities continue to arrest and repatriate their mothers, mothers who are trying to raise their children and therefore should be granted the legal right to stay in China.

It is a sad fact that the foster children are not allowed to have legitimate inhabitant registration certificates in China, so that cannot enter high schools or higher educational facilities, no matter how excellent their school record. Even if they try for a higher education, they are highly likely to be denied entry, and may even be arrested and repatriated. These children are abandoned not only by their parents but by the Chinese government as well. The number of such children now reaching school age continues to rise.

Assisting Settling in

LFNKR has worked together with other NGOs to help North Korean defectors reach safe places in third countries. LFNKR has helped a number of refugees settle in Japan when they have explicitly rdquested this by working together with related governmental divisions, NGOs, and the North Korean Refugee Support Center of the Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan).

Among the North Korean defectors who have settled in Japan, those who are aged or suffer from chronic diseases receive welfare benefits, while most young defectors relatively quickly graduate from welfare and start leading independent lives.

International lobbying

Especially significant among the international lobbying activities were the field survey of North Korean refugees in Thailand and the meetings with the Thai National Human Rights Committee, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Chiangrai Immigration Bureau as well as police in the Thailand/Laos border area. We held discussions with them primarily on human rights and how to improve conditions at the overcrowded detention center.

Downloadable Brochure You Can Use

Front cover of the folded brochure

The easy Way to Tell Others About North Korea
~ Ready to print and hand out

LFNKR often receives requests from public-minded citizens and organizations asking for materials to help them spread the word about North Korea’s many human rights violations. Below is a brochure that you can freely download and print out when you wish to tell others what’s happening behind the curtain of secrecy in North Korea. The brochure gives a quick overview of our group’s activities and invites readers to browse our site for further information.

Interview with a Former NK Refugee

His Dream Is to Own a Yakitori Restaurant
~ Kim Chun Gun, NK refugee ~

As part of its activities, LFNKR supports resettlement of North Koreans in Japan after helping them safely reach this country. Here is the first chapter of a series of true stories relating the experiences of former North Korean refugees working to start a new life in Japan.

Kato Addresses Thai University

Main Gate of Chiang Mai University

Thailand’s Chiang Mai University Invites First-Ever Lecture on North Korean Refugee Issue

On Jan. 23, 2009, Mr. Kato Hiroshi, Executive Director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) presented a lecture on the North Korean human rights and refugee issue at Chiang Mai University. Chiang Mai University (CMU), with about 17,000 students, is the largest university in Northern Thailand.

LFNKR’s Kato Addresses Int’l Conference

Kato Hiroshi Speaks to International Conference

Speakers included: Willy Fautre (Human Rights without Frontiers, President); Vincent Brossel (Reporters without Borders); David Hawk (human rights investigator and advocate and author of “the Hidden Gulag”); Chuck Downs (US Committee for NK HR); and Hiroshi Kato (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees).

Text of Kato Hiroshi’s Speech

It is my privilege and honor to present this speech here at the North Korean Human Rights Campaign 2008

Our main purposes at Life Funds for North Korean Refugees are: first, to provide humanitarian aid and protect the human rights of North Korea defectors in China and Southeast Asia; and second, to reach out to people in North Korea with food and medicine.

Out of 100,000 North Korean refugees hiding out in Northeastern China, about 70-100 are under LFNKR’s protection as of July 2008.

In my opinion, the worst form of human rights violation is human trafficking. The number of human trafficking victims is not yet clearly known, but we estimate the number to be more than 70% of all defectors. An investigation conducted in the villages where our shelters are located showed that 10-20% of all villagers are North Korean women who have been sold to Chinese men in the village. Out of 60,000-70,000 women defectors, at least half are of childbearing age.

Babies between Han Chinese and ethnic Koreans will reach 30,000-35,000, most of whom are unregistered.

The youngest victim of human trafficking I have met was 8 years old at the time she was sold. She was brought up in an ethnic Korean family in Heilong City, Jilin Province, but was sold for 1,500 RMB to an ethnic Chinese man at the age of fourteen. She gave birth at the age of 19. After the baby was born, she was sold again by a broker to a different man, and unfortunately I do not know where she is now. Girls being sold by a broker after childbirth are now very common to see.

The price of women varies: usually 5,000-10,000 RMB (approximately $500-1,000 US dollars), for girls up to the age of 20; 3,000-5,000 RMB (or $300-500 US dollars), for up to the age of 30; 2,000-2,500 RMB ($200-250 USD) for up to the age of 40 with a child; and 500-1,000 RMB (or $50-100 US dollars) for children.

However, this year, the price has increased. A woman in her 20s is sold at the price of 20,000 RMB because the number of female North Korean defectors is decreasing. North Korean women seem hesitant to escape the country due to the crackdown operation for the security of the Beijing Olympic Games, as well as forced repatriation that entails serious threats to life upon being returned to North Korea.

The trafficking of North Korean women goes back to 1985 when it was not yet as systematic. It was mere match-making organized by a broker for a rural Chinese man who could not marry in an orthodox way. At that time, the Chinese government welcomed them, and there was neither arrest nor forced repatriation. (But this has now become an organized business-like activity.)

Young women from three provinces in Northeast China that were excluded from China’s open economy reform policy started to move to the Southern China Economic Zone, Japan and Korea to find work. As a result, the female population in these rural areas has decreased considerably. The demand for North Korean women naturally became greater. The role of young North Korean women in replacing ethnic Chinese women was considered significant. The brokers taking advantage of the situation started to appear during this time and it became more organized and business-like.

In the late 1990s, the food rationing system of North Korea collapsed.

North Koreans seeking food started to escape to China, and from 1997 there was a massive influx of people from North Korea into China.

Ethnic Koreans in China provided their starving brethren with food and clothing. However, due to some people trying to take advantage of the goodwill of these ethnic Chinese, and an increased crime rate, the Chinese government started to strengthen the policy concerning North Korea defectors.

In 2000, trafficking of North Korean women became more serious. More women had risked their lives escaping to China and fell into the clutches of brokers. The reports made by staff members in charge of our shelters outlines many of these cases.

The Chinese police, in secret communication with the North Korean National Security Agency, has prosecuted these women who are illegally married to rural Chinese men. If a woman who had a child at the time of marriage is prosecuted, then the child no longer receives any protection and becomes an orphan. The child usually survives by helping with farming, taking care of cows in return for room and board.

The children of North Korean women sold to Chinese men face a bleak future. An infant can choose neither his or her own country nor parents. A mother has no choice but to sell herself.

Because the stay of these women is illegal their children are also stateless. They are not Chinese and not North Koreans either. They have no right to education or anything else. They have no human rights and are staying illegally. These children are languishing in extreme poverty.

Early last year, the mother of 5-year-old Kim Yong-soon was arrested and repatriated to North Korea. Her crime? Leaving the starvation in North Korea and seeking survival in China.

But once this young woman had escaped North Korea six years ago, she was quickly sold into a forced marriage to a Chinese man, and just as quickly became pregnant. This is how she came to give birth to daughter Kim Yong-soon. The daughter, Yong-soon is now being supported under LFNKR’s foster parent program.

Our people, the LFNKR local staff in China, reported to us that it will be impossible for her to return again, since this is her third repatriation.

You know, you have to wonder why it is that Chinese government policies show no mercy to families. They callously tear them apart, separating mothers and children with no regard to human feeling.

In Yanji, Longjin, and other cities near the border between China and North Korea, the two countries have intensified their joint crackdown.

North Korean authorities provide Chinese security police with information on North Korean defectors, and the Chinese police follow up relentlessly. These police personnel are highly motivated — their government is paying high bounties. For each North Korean refugee they arrest, someone puts 2,000 RMB in their pocket. That bounty payment equals the monthly salary of most university graduates in China.

Over the years, human rights NGOs, International organizations and foreign governments have made numerous appeals. They have asked the government of China about this issue of North Korean defectors in China.

The Chinese government has ignored these appeals. In fact, they have never bothered to respond at all, and meanwhile they continue to forcibly return North Korean refugees to face the certainty of brutal persecution in North Korea. This is an obvious and blatant defiance of humanitarianism. The Chinese government clearly has no interest in what the international community thinks.

UNHCR’s appeals to the government of China are always ignored. Beijing has also ignored the appeals of the South Korean government on behalf of aid workers arrested for helping North Korean refugees.

The two lessons to be learned from past incidents are these: first, China responds only to a strong show of force. And second, the last thing that works with the Chinese government is an appeal to humanitarian consideration. China is submissive to the stronger, but shows no mercy to the weaker.

The North Korean defectors are in a position of strength when they are in the custody of foreign embassies and weak if they are outside the custody of a strong power.

I now publicly issue a call to all South Korean activists and North Korean defectors. From this moment forward, I urge you to direct your efforts to collecting evidence, testimony and information that provides full details for the international community in general and the UN Special Rapporteur, in particular.

In addition, we all should take this occasion to acknowledge, with profound thanks, all the efforts that have led to successfully exposing North Korean Crimes against Humanity. We can be proud of the widespread call for justice that was demonstrated by the passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act in the US Congress, the series of resolutions adopted by the UN, among many others, and the resolution on human rights in DPRK, which the UN General Assembly approved last December.

As a next step, I would like to see the UN Security Council raise the issue of creating an International human rights investigation team to be dispatched to North Korea. I do recognize, however, that the chances of that happening are quite slim with Russia and China on the Council. They are very likely to block any such efforts.

Since North Korea’s crimes are of the most serious nature, we cannot just stop here. I suggest that we approach the International Criminal Court by presenting hard evidence, verified information and solid proof. Obtaining this kind of evidence and proof from inside North Korea is definitely a realistic possibility because, in recent years, many North Korean officials have grown increasingly demoralized as they face mounting personal danger in the ongoing power struggles.

We should redouble our efforts now toward obtaining undeniable and credible information from inside North Korea — information that is so strong and so convincing that it must be taken to the International Criminal Court.

In closing my speech today, and with your permission, I wish to personally call upon the entire international community to intervene decisively in the North Korean situation. It is a matter of international responsibility — clearly so.

Let us, therefore, create a living reality that some day all innocent North Korean prisoners, as well as all South Korean and Japanese abductees, will know for a fact that they were never for a single moment forgotten by the people of the world.

Thank you.

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.