Category Archives: North Korea

New Propaganda Boosting Kim-Jong-un

 

Onsong, North Korea – Feb. 16, 2012

To mark the celebration of Kim Jong-il’s birthday this year, one bottle of distilled spirits and one cake of soap were distributed to every household in Onsong county. In other counties or cities, the quantities and items reportedly varied. North Korean citizens have begun saying of Kim Jong-un that “another Kim Il-sung (his grandfather) is born.”

Sending in the Choco Pies

North Koreans want Choco Pies

Help Send Choco Pies of Love for Valentine’s Day

Choco pies have become the most famous snacks among North Korean workers in Kaeson Industrial Park (see details below), but outside this one limited area, the rest of North Korea has little idea of the everyday luxuries available to the rest of the world.

NK People Uncertain Over New Leader’s Status

  

Kim Jong-un Depends on Regency of Chang Sung-taek

People in Onsong are saying that the recent conditions in North Korea remind them of the “Arduous March” back in the late 1970s.  There was a serious shortage of food then too. On Jan. 23, which is New Year’s day on the old calendar, the People’s Committee of Onsong County issued an order to distribute one 450-ml bottle of Shochu (distilled 20% proof spirits) per household.  Some troops received food rations on Jan. 2.

New Book, ‘Why Peace’, Offers 77 Ways to Peace

Now book 'Why Peace' by Noguchi Takayuki

Noguchi Takayuki, one of the directors of this organization, has contributed a story about North Korean refugees, peace in East Asia and his experiences in a Chinese prison to a newly released book titled “Why Peace” (editor Marc Guttman). The book, published on January 1, 2012, suggests a wide variety of ideas for achieving a more harmonious, prosperous, fair and tolerant world based upon peaceful interaction.

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.

Outflow of NK Refugees Resumes

 

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.

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.

Turning Kim Jong-un into the New Leader

 

Following the death of Kim Jong-il, authorities have further tightened their control over citizens.

Along the Tumen and Yalu Rivers, which run along the border between China and North Korea, every available radio tracking instrument is being brought to bear in a round-the-clock crackdown on cellular phones.

Rice Priced Out of Reach in NK

 

Price of rice skyrockets after Kim Jong-il dies

On Dec. 24th we received another call from one of our LFNKR staff members in the Rason Special Economic Zone in North Hamgyong. This member told us about the current food situation. The already tight food availability is worsening, which may result in many victims during the mourning period. In Rason, rice now costs 4,800 to 5,000 won per kilogram. However, the average monthly wage of a typical worker is only 2,000 to 3,000 won. Clearly, an entire kilogram of rice costs more than one worker can earn in a month. 

NK Execs at State-run Businesses also Cold, Hungry

 

On Dec. 24th, LFNKR’s Tokyo office received a fifth flash report from one of our local staff members in Rason Special Economic Zone in North Hamgyong. According to the report, at noon on the 24th, the only vehicles lined up to go through China’s Quanhe customs gate into North Korea were about 20 coal trucks bound for Rajin Port in North Korea from Heilongjiang, China.

Infighting Among Kim Jong-il Sons Expected

 

The LFNKR office has continued to receive intermittent calls from our local staff member in North Korea. Even though that country remains on high alert, the following report was received on the 23rd. People in the Onsong area of North Hamgyong have already begun discussing who will succeed Kim Jong-il. A common remark is that “Kim Jong-un is too young to run the country.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Winter Relief for the Starving

Here is just one shipment of rice ready for transport to NK.

We Can Help Only a Handful

Although thousands upon thousands in North Korea were without food, warm clothes or adequate shelter this past winter, we were able to provide relief for only a few hundred. By November of each year, our organization must secure the money needed to send shipments of winter clothing, medical kits and rice to some of the most needy people in North Korea through our local underground network. Thus, we are starting early to build up funds for next winter. According to some observers, conditions are likely to be even worse by then.

Book Details Life in North Korea

Book on NK - NOTHING TO ENVY by Barbara Demic

Nothing To Envy, A book about ordinary lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. The author spent six years researching the life of ordinary people in North Korea, interviewing defectors and viewing smuggled photographs and videos. This book details life under the most repressive totalitarian regime in the world today.

Famine and “Barley Mountain ” Prompt Increased Defections

Time of Crossing Bo-rit-kko-ge, Barley Hill

In Pyongyang, rice distribution is halted, potatoes are seldom available

On March 26, when the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan was sunk in Korean waters near the Northern Limit Line, 46 South Korean sailors died. An international team of civilian and military investigators from Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia found that the underwater explosion was caused by a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine, thus sinking the ship. Pyongyang has denied responsibility.

Rising tensions along the China-North Korea border

Following the sinking of Cheonan, tensions have risen sharply along the China-North Korea border. On the North Korean side of the Tumen River, the number of heavily armed soldiers deployed has tripled since the incident. Every morning and evening, fully equipped North Korean soldiers, are seen chanting and running in formation with their guns in hand.

The head of the border police at the Tumen River customs office now faces greater pressure.

Until the incident, this area had been famous for its border tours, with crowds of people thronging the souvenir shops and restaurants. Tourists took many vacation snapshots home with them from here. In the restaurants, old men sat drinking beer and reminiscing about North Korea.

But in Chinese society, where word of mouth matters, reports of the North Korean troops quickly spread and the number of tourists declined sharply.

One owner of a Tumen River-side restaurant expressed anger with North Korea, and disappointment with the sharp decline in business because customers fear the tense situation in the area. He is also extremely nervous, since no one knows what will happen next, nor when.

Inspectors from the State Security Department and the Central Military Commission

Until the rice planting season in May, the State Security Agency officials from Pyongyang, who had been sent to carry out inspections, were staying in the homes of the border guards and the Sixth Army Corps officers.

Since the incident, however, inspectors from the Central Military Commission have begun reviewing the troops. Tension is also rising in North Korea. At one of our shelters, not one single North Korean has come seeking food since the Cheonan sinking incident. Previously, 30 people a month was typical.

The North Korean border guards, who routinely took half of all rice coming in from China as their own share, are now unable to take any. They are out of business and out of work.

In response to this tense situation, both China and the Shenyang Military Region, in an effort to avoid provoking North Korea, have been secretly taking action to deal with the situation. At the present stage, the local government and the communist party are handling matters and remain on the alert.

China has been trying to maintain an appearance of normalcy, but they continue to watch matters closely.

Though the situation is tense, cross-border traffic between China and North Korea continues to be treated normally. As yet, no restrictions have been imposed.

Fifty thousand passes issued

In November of last year, North Korea informed China that it would issue border passes to 50,000 North Korean citizens. At that time, the announcement was not handled by North Korea’s foreign affairs people. Instead, it was the State Security Department who explained it to China’s police officers.

The reason, they explained, was to allow North Korean citizens access to support from their relatives in China. It is highly probable that, even in Yanji city, many North Koreans have received such passes legally and entered China.

In many cases, the relatives in China are unable to offer much help. In such unfortunate cases they also seek help from churches, from our shelters and from our collaborators.

Without support, North Koreans become refugees

North Koreans usually enter China on one-month visas. Many of them, however, cannot return to North Korea until they have received the help they need. This is because, in many cases, they have borrowed the equivalent of $500 for their visa application fees and travel expenses from their acquaintances and friends. As a result, these North Koreans end up becoming illegal overstayers or refugees, who often then try to depart to third countries.

Seeing this opportunity, some North Koreans have gone to South Korea, so North Korea quickly responded by sending State Security Agency personnel to China to crack down on this practice.

For a while, it had appeared that the North Korean Security Agency had suspended these operations. But according to information from one person within the Chinese police, since the Cheonan incident, more than 100 Security Agency people have been actively operating in Yanji city.

It is time to cross over Bo-rit-kko-ge, Barley Mountain

In Yanji city I met two North Korean refugees from Wonsan-city, Gangwon-do province in early July. This mother and daughter had decided never to return to their home country. They asked me to help them because they are seeking a way to reach South Korea.

Their IDs presented no problem, since they were introduced to me by people with whom I had worked previously. Even so, there was no guarantee they could get to South Korea safely.

Worse, if they happened to be arrested and repatriated to North Korea before they reached South Korea, the names of the people helping them would be uncovered in the course of interrogations, which would put those people in danger. We discussed this, weighing the danger involved against our own safety.

People in Wonsan are being told it is time to cross Bo-rit-kko-ge

(Note: “Bo-ri” means barley and “ko-ge” means high hill or mountain. In the past, in many Asian countries, springtime would bring a period of hunger before the barley was ready for harvest, but after the previous year’s rice had already run out. The expression includes the nuance that it is very hard to get over the mountain before the barley harvest. It was especially bad for the poor. During this season, people usually comb the mountains seeking anything edible, including roots and sprouts, or what we call “san na-mul”, which is basically anything green.)

The mother and daughter told us that that they had no food, no medicine, and that they had lost their property in the currency reform. They expressed anger because they can never expect anything good to happen, no matter how much longer they stayed in North Korea. They said that they had no choice but leave because they simply could not make it over Barley Mountain.

A Korean-Chinese trader, who knows a North Korean doctor working in a Pyongyang ophthalmic hospital, reported that the food situation there had reached its worst point ever. In expressing sympathy for the North Koreans, he used the same phrase: it’s a time of crossing Bo-rit-kko-ge.

Top doctor hasn’t had rice for six months

This ophthalmic hospital was built with support from South Korea. It is said that everything, including medicines, medical equipment and facilities, were sent from South Korea, although all the doctors working there are from Pyongyang. This is a first-rate hospital, yet it needs to obtain food supplies on its own, and cannot manage to accomplish this.

This doctor, the head of his department, hadn’t eaten white rice for half a year. The hospital seldom distributes any kind of food, and only occasionally distributes new potatoes. Thus, even the doctors are suffering from the food crisis.

With the doctors employed in top medical facilities enduring conditions like this, it is clear that ordinary Pyongyang citizens are suffering even more severely from this unprecedented famine.

Special Report by Kato Hiroshi
     Executive Director of LFNKR

 

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.

China Attempts Blackmail of Japan over NK Refugees

– 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.

2 Foster Children – 2 Success Stories

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.

They Won’t Reap What They Sow

Hopeless Crops

One of LFNKR’s local staff members in China took this picture across the border on June 1, 2010.  It shows people planting rice seedlings in Namiyan, North Hamgyong, North Korea.  Their clothing indicates that they are not farmers but soldiers and urban women who have been assigned to the rice planting job.

NK Woman with Moxa Marks

Thyroid Illness Common in NK Woman’s Village  

One day recently, a 30-year-old woman from North Hamgyong, North Korea unexpectedly appeared at one of LFNKR’s shelters in China requesting medical assistance. She was suffering from hyperthyroidism, with swollen throat, and in her home city had received a Chinese remedy for her illness.  That medicine, however, had worsened her symptoms.

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.

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.

Prosecute Kim Jong-il through ICC for Crimes Against Humanity

According to recent media reports, Kim Jong-il, now suffering health difficulties, has selected his third son, Kim Jong-un, to succeed him. The North Korean regime is reportedly accelerating plans to become an important military power by 2012.  This may explain why the regime has conducted repeated missile launches and nuclear tests in defiance of UN resolutions on sanctions, despite escalating tensions in the world community.

Panicked Chinese Students Evacuated

Yanji, China

North Korea’s second nuclear test on May 25 shocked the world and caused the strongest tremor ever to hit the border area between China and North Korea.  People in the region feared that it was another huge earthquake like the recent one in Sichuan.  Fortunately, I had lived in Japan long enough to be familiar with earthquakes, so I did not panic.  However, most people living in the border area were clearly terrified.

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.

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.

First Hints of Free Journalism for North Korea

Japanese Language Magazine Reports from inside North Korea

North Korea is increasingly attracting world attention because of its recent missile launch and the issue of who will succeed Kim Jong-il.  These issues should motivate us to step up our efforts to discover what is happening inside North Korea and how the common people are doing there. 

The flood of news about the missile launch, which usually depends on official North Korean announcements, helps hide signs that the badly weakened Kim Jong-il regime cannot afford to feed its soldiers and that the majority of common people see their leader’s policies as failures.  I believe that, to deal with North Korea, it is increasingly urgent to focus on the real picture there, rather than possibly over- or under-estimating the regime.

North Korea suffers from a serious ailment.  All the neighboring countries in East Asia, as well as the US are very well aware that the country’s illness is critical, and they are willing to help North Korea. They hope for the nation to become a healthy, normal country as soon as possible.  However, none of the concerned countries has been able to identify the cause or locate the wound. Therefore, they have not yet been able to properly diagnose or treat the condition. 

Although the international community is very willing to find the cause of this serious illness, the patient, North Korea, will not disrobe, will not even allow its pulse to be taken.

The North Korean regime has confined itself inside a deep hole, with no sign that it wishes to come out.  The regime, completely isolated from international society, is unlikely to heal itself without outside help. 

What is needed first is a proper diagnosis of the illness.  This requires that highly accurate, reliable information on the internal condition of North Korea be consistently supplied to the outside world.  A diagnosis based on inaccurate or inadequate information could lead to a misdiagnosis, leading to a delayed cure or even a worsening of the illness. 

This is why I decided to plant the seeds of journalism in North Korea. 

North Korea is currently going through a dramatic change. During the past 15 years, the commercial transactions started by common people after the economical failure of the nation have enormously developed with a resultant rapid growth of market economy.

Concurrently with the growth of the market economy, more people are beginning to go for self-sustained living. More people think for themselves, make their own decisions and take action. In other words, the people’s way of thinking and their sense of values are significantly changing.

The magazine features comments from common people in North Korea collected by Rimjingang reporters living underground while in the country. The comments represent true public opinions of the people living under this tyranny.

These public opinions may help provide the materials to help reach a proper diagnosis of the serious illness of the North Korean society.

Report by Jiro Ishimaru
(Publisher of Rimjingang, Asiapress)

Go here to read a brief introduction of Mr. Jiro Ishimaru and the “Rimjingang” magazine.



LFNKR Comments:

Even while North Korea still has many helplessly starving people, a growing number of individuals have begun to take matters into their own hands, setting up to sell small goods along roadsides or under bridges. They are seeking a private income for survival in response to the collapse of the government’s economic policy.

To discourage the spread of private selling, the government has set up public markets for small merchants, such as the one shown below.

The owner of each 1-sq-meter booth sells food in a publicly-run market in Kang-dong, a suburb south of Pyongyang.  (Photo by Chang Jung-gil, a reporter with Rimjingang, the magazine published by Jiro Ishimaru, Asiaoress.)

The owner of each 1-sq-meter booth sells food in a publicly-run market in Kang-dong, a suburb south of Pyongyang. (Photo by Chang Jung-gil, a reporter with Rimjingang, the magazine published by Jiro Ishimaru, Asiaoress.)

 

 

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.

Global Festival in Tokyo Proves Popular

A Global Festival to commemorate the global citizenship of every person on earth

Almost Eighty Thousand Attend

A Global Festival to commemorate the global citizenship of every person on earth was held for two days in Tokyo, beginning on Oct. 6, which is designated International Cooperation Day. The event was hosted by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

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.

Movie ‘Crossing’ Wins High Praise

"Crossing" - the Movie

It also Raises Valid Questions

Based on a true story, the Korean movie “Crossing” took four years to complete. Until the movie was publicly announced in March this year, the entire project was kept under tight security, including all filming done in South Korea, China, and Mongolia. “Crossing” focuses on the reality of life in North Korea and the flood of defectors leaving the country. The secrecy was necessary because there were fears that pro-North Korean elements in South Korea might sabotage the project.

NK Spy a Modern-Day ‘Mata Hari’

Woman Seduces Officials, in Search of Secrets

Recently, the Japanese media has been full of coverage of a “North Korean Mata Hari,” a woman posing as a defector who slept with numerous South Korean military officials in order to gain military information for the North. The woman, Won Jeong Hwa, 34, was reportedly ordered by North Korea’s Public Security Force to spy on defectors, including Hwang Jang-Yop, the high-ranking former Workers’ Party Secretary who defected to South Korea.

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.

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.

Letters from NK Refugee Kids in Hidden Shelters

Refugee child in one of LFNKR's shelters writing to foster parent in Japan.

June 2008

LFNKR recently received letters from several of our foster children who are currently in first to third grades of elementary school. These children are being supported under LFNKR’s education sponsorship program. In their letters to their foster parents, the children mainly report on their school records.

Bicycling Campaign Across Europe for NK Rights

Call for Volunteer Participants

LFNKR is joining the bicycling campaign hosted by Justice for North Korea. The campaign is to publicize the North Korean human rights issue and bring it to the attention of Europe. To maximize the impact of this campaign, we are calling for as many participants as possible. Those who wish to ride bicycles may do so, but that is not a requirement. Buses will accompany the riders, so it will be possible to ride bicycles on only selected segments of the route (or only one). Some participants may elect to ride the bus only.

U.S. Senator Nixes Ambassador Nominee over NK Human Rights

U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R. Kansas)

US State Dept. too Soft on Kim Jong Il?

United States Senator Sam Brownback (R. Kansas), a long-time champion of North Korean refugees and their human rights, gave an impassioned speech from the Senate floor outlining his reasons for putting a hold on the nomination of Kathleen Stephens as ambassador to South Korea.

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.