Category Archives: North Korean Refugees
Your donations do make a difference
Your support has enabled us to save a 27-year-old North Korean refugee. On February 23, LFNKR successfully completed the rescue mission to bring Mr. Y.Y. out of China to a safe place.
It has been your generous support and donations that made it possible for him to even dream of freedom.
Five more remaining people still await their chance for rescue. We are thankful for your concern for these people living at risk. If you would like to donate to help these five to reach safety, please click through to our donation page.
With sincere thanks,
Hiroshi Kato, Director of LFNKR
Choi’s legal status is still pending
On February 13, LFNKR received the following press release from the Human Rights Center “Memorial” in Russia. Mr. Choi Myung Bok has managed to avoid the deportation. However, his case is still pending a final decision.
LFNKR sincerely hopes that Mr. Choi will be granted refugee status as soon as possible or alternatively be allowed safe passage to a third country of refuge.
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.
On Nov. 26, LFNKR received a rescue request from a group of six North Korean refugees, one of whom is a 4-year-old girl. These people are survivors of the heavy flooding caused by North Korea’s torrential rains in late August. Reportedly, more than 100,000 people lost their homes.
One LFNKR member visited the China-North Korea border and took photos of the affected area. The following two photos were taken two days after the flooding.
After their village was completely swept away by the disaster, these six people fled to China, initially searching for food just to survive. Soon afterward they heard about LFNKR and contacted us for help relocating.
For more details, refer to: this CNN article
In this Christmas season, with the spirit of giving and receiving, we gratefully thank you for all the assistance you have sent us in the past. And we invite you to join us in helping these six refugees reach safety.
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.
It’s well worth it
Hiroshi Kato, the executive director of LFNKR, participated July 3 in the annual exchange party for NK refugees held in Osaka. Joining the party were about 50 former North Korean defectors who have resettled in the Kansai region (south-western half of Japan, including Osaka). Attending were three generations, ranging from babies under the age of one up to 70 years-old.
Kato was overwhelmed by their boundless energy. They sang and danced to Karaoke without a break for three hours straight. He was very impressed by their extremely good singing … and by their dancing, which surprise him. He saw waltzes and jitterbugging rather than more traditional Korean dances.
I Want to See my Daughters as Soon as Possible
By Pak Sung Hee (alias), a Former NK Refugee
I once lived in Chongjin, North Hamgyong. From the 1990’s (the time of the “Arduous March”) through early 2000 we experienced severe starvation. I realized that my whole family would starve to death if something didn’t change, so I crossed the Tumen River into China to bring back food. I bitterly regret, however, that I was never able to make it back to Chongjin where my family was waiting for me.
My father is Japanese, and my mother was an ethnic Korean resident of Japan. Years earlier my parents had believed the propaganda claiming that North Korea was a Paradise on Earth. So, together, they immigrated to North Korea.
LFNKR (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) recently helped the first two of the six North Korean refugees waiting to escape to freedom. These six are the refugees for whom we recently invited donations.
And it was your generosity that enabled us to help these two. Thank you so much for your ongoing interest and your continued support, and we invite you to help us help the remaining North Korean refugees on our waiting list.
Rescue mission 613 was initiated at the beginning of June, and although it encountered a few unexpected incidents, everything ended well. Unfortunately, just before the rescue mission began, the identity of the special “guide” originally selected for the task was disclosed in the media. This, of course, meant the guide’s risk of arrest had become too great, so we hurriedly sent in a different guide.
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.
Because Donations Have Fallen Off …
One important part of our assistance efforts is the orphanages we support. Winter is upon us now, and the six-month cold season in that region always means heavier expenses.
Some of that increase goes for warm winter clothes, of course, but the bulk is needed for coal to heat the buildings where our orphans live.
Ever wonder who does the behind-the-scenes work in an NGO like ours?
A while back Hiroshi Kato, who heads this organization, posted a call for volunteers – someone to help LFNKR with translation work. Since this NGO is made up almost exclusively of volunteers, and there’s always more to do than time available, we are always delighted to hear from those wanting to help.
One young lady in the US, a “Mrs M,” contacted us offering her assistance. Only thing was, she wasn’t sure her skills were good enough. We sent her a couple of short articles to try, and as it turns out, her skills were excellent. She’s been translating for us ever since.
And then the other day we wondered, would readers be interested in hearing how one volunteer started?
We thought that you, our readers, might indeed be interested, so here it is – Mrs M’s story:
First Japanese Entry Permit, First Japanese Guest House Permit
By Igawa Fukuko
After entering Japan, our family faced continuous hardship for one or two years.
Our family escaped from North Korea and were given entry into Japan in 2000 with absolutely no money or skills. We were anxious about what kind of life was waiting for us from here on. In any case, we felt at least secure that we probably would not starve to death.
Here’s some background information that may give you a richer understanding of the NK refugees.
Last year our Executive Director, Hiroshi Kato, participated in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit. It was his first-ever AMA and he was really impressed with the quality of the questions he received, which ranged from defectors’ life skills to misconceptions about North Korea. We have included the questions and answers he received, edited slightly for readability.
We hope you enjoy reading it, and feel free to add your own questions and comments on Facebook or Twitter!
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).
Here is an update from Miss K. H., the young North Korean defector who is now studying to become a nurse in Tokyo. Like Sumi’s mother (in the previous post), this young lady also reported on her current activities at the recent LFNKR annual meeting.
It will soon be 2 years since I entered the nursing school in April 2013. Time is flying by as I scramble to keep up with the heavy curriculum schedule, which includes the weekly exams, the events and all the practical training.
LFNKR has helped many North Korean refugees to escape and resettle in Japan. Here is one of those success stories. This young lady attended LFNKR’s recent annual meeting, where she caught us up on her current activities. This report is from the mother of Baby Sumi, now age two (check the links below for more details). Here is a summary of her presentation.
See anything different? Silly question, right? You’re probably already noticing the new look. Here at NorthKoreanRefugees.com we’re in the process of changing our site’s appearance. Starting today, we’re sporting an entirely new, more streamlined style.
The old look was a very new look back in 2002, when we first launched this site. But time marches on – especially on the Internet – and the very newest thing can be superseded very quickly by technology that works better, faster and more transparently.
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.
Exciting Donation and Financing Technology
Help One More North Korean Refugee Reach Safety
Everybody’s familiar with how fast Internet technology advances. Way, way back in 2003, when we instituted a new way for you to donate (via PayPal), it was still a fairly new idea. But time rolls quickly onward.
And now, there’s a new option we think you might appreciate. It’s called “Crowd Funding” and it’s an easy way to make donations to help support the rescue of North Korean refugees. Find out more about crowd funding here.
Date: November 29, 2014
From 17th Gen. Meeting Oct. 19, 2014
As a member of the ICNK, LFNKR has been actively working with other international NGO members to help the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate North Korean human rights violations. Primary activities include providing investigation materials, as well as related North Korean and Chinese written laws and regulations, testimonies by previous detainees at the notorious death camps and their relatives, public hearings of North Korean defectors and nonofficial interviews with North Korean defectors.
Japanese & Korean NGOs
To Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Request for the Permanent Resettlement in Japan of all Japanese Spouses and Family (including grandchildren) of Ethnic Koreans “Repatriated” to North Korea on the occasion of the Stockholm Agreement between Japan and North Korea
On the occasion of the July 1 initiation of the Japan-North Korea government-level consultations, we would like to express our deepest respect for your commitment to resolving humanitarian problems including the issue of helping those abducted by North Korea.
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
Update from former NK refugee
Miss K. H., one of the North Korean defectors we helped rescue four years ago, just sent us an update on her progress in nursing school. As you may recall from ourearlier article last year, she is a former North Korean defector who has resettled in Japan.
If You’ve Ever Thought of Internship…
Throughout the year, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees receives inquiries from students interested in doing an internship with us. We’re excited by all the enthusiasm for North Korean human rights issues that this represents, and we wish that we could take on some of these impressive candidates.
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.
Report from Mother
Sumi, the baby born to our North Korean refugee parents in December of 2012, is growing and thriving wonderfully. Recently, a photo and email arrived at our LFNKR offices reporting on Sumi’s first birthday celebration.
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”
By Keiko Kawai
(name changed for security)
Fifteen years ago I left my parents, brothers and friends behind and set out for Japan, a country whose ways I knew nothing about. This move has brought dramatic changes to my life; meanwhile my heart – my determination and my commitment to a better life – has never wavered.
From 16th General Meeting. Oct. 20, 2013
LFNKR, in FY2012 (Sept. 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013), has witnessed improved awareness in the international community with respect to the North Korean human rights issue. The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), was established in Sept. 2011. This organization, which includes 43 international NGOs in 15 countries, is engaged in lobbying activities. The ICNK group in Japan, of which LFNKR is also a member, has repeatedly visited Japanese Diet lawmakers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) as well as a number of foreign embassies in Tokyo.
Seeking Solutions to the Problem
Mr. Hiroshi Kato, the secretary-general of LFNKR, and an expert on North Korean human rights issues, is often invited by leading Japanese universities to speak on this topic. Below is an outline of a recent lecture. It was presented at Meiji University on the 7th of November 2013. These lectures often inspire young people to join in our human rights activities.
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).
to Hold Public Hearings in UK And US
COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA
GENEVA, 17 October 2013 – The United Nations-mandated commission investigating the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will begin next week a series of public hearings in the United Kingdom and the United States aimed at gathering information from witnesses on rights violations alleged to have occurred in the Asian nation.
Studying Hard Every Day:
KH, who enrolled in nursing school in April, is about to start her summer vacation. It has been less than 5 years since KH came to Japan from North Korea. First she enrolled in, then graduated from, evening middle school. Next, she took enough units at the municipal high school to earn her high school graduation certificate in less than two years. This spring, she applied to take the entrance examination for a well-known nursing school. Competing against native Japanese high school students under the exact same conditions, she passed an exam for which only about 1 in 7 gains admission.
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.
More NK Refugees Awaiting Rescue – Help Us Get Them to Safety
LFNKR has received desperate cries for help from NK defectors. A severely physically handicapped father, 59, and his two sons (ages 27 and 25) have risked their lives to escape from North Korea. They are now in Yanji, waiting for us to help them make it the rest of the way to South Korea.
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”
Italian Mediaset TGCOM24 Seeks Answers
Last month, a major Italian news outlet, Mediaset TGCOM24, contacted LFNKR, requesting an interview with one NK defector (37 years old) who is now resettled in Japan. LFNKR arranged the interview with the defector, whom LFNKR had helped to safely reach and resettle in Tokyo.
Escapee Shin Don-hyuk talks about prison
CNN, in a taped interview, talked with escaped North Korean work camp prisoner, Shin Dong-hyuk. Shin’s life began in near-hopeless circumstances in a NK prison camp. His parents, already interned there, were allowed a “reward marriage” for obedient behavior, but that didn’t last. Shin tells how, at age 14, he witnessed his mother and brother being executed. View part of the interview here.
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.
First Language Skills, Now Nursing
This 29-year-old North Korean young lady only reached Japan four years ago. She immediately began attending night classes at a local junior high, and then moved on to high school, while also working part-time jobs to support herself.