Category Archives: Public Awareness
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.
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.
LFNKR On Dec. 5, jointly hosted a seminar as one of the events held during the first week of December to help promote public awareness of the North Korean human rights issue. The seminar was titled “Terror of Whistle Blowers in a Solitary Confinement Cell.” To emphasize what it was really like, LFNKR specially created two full-size punishment cells not just for display but also to give participants the experience of being in the cages.
We invited Mr. Jeong Kwang-il, who has experienced being locked up in one of the punishment cells, to talk about the confinement and one of the tortures called “pigeon torture.” In the pigeon torture, a person’s hands are tied behind their back and handcuffed so that they can neither stand nor sit.
Mr. Jeong Kwang-il is Director of No Chains for North Korea and the Director of Human Rights Investigations for North Korea Watch. He was confined in Yodok Concentration Camp, one of North Korea’s most notorious camps.
Many North Koreans are tortured and sent to the concentration camps without trial, just as Mr. Jeong was.
Translated From a Recent Issue of the LFNKR Newsletter
Tragedy Awaits Withdrawal from Activities for Human Rights in North Korea
By Ken Kato — ICNK Affiliate-Director, Human Rights in Asia
TO~ everyone dedicated to maintaining human rights activities for the North Korean people:
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:
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!
Rest in peace, Kenkichi Nakadaira
It is with great sadness that Life Funds for North Korean Refugees announces the passing of its founding Executive Director, Kenkichi Nakadaira at the age of 89 from heart failure.
We are deeply grateful for the selfless devotion he showed, becoming the bedrock of the fledgling organization that LFNKR then was. LFNKR, a recognized NPO, is the organization it is today because of the foundation that Nakadaira-sensei established. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Nakadaira-sensei for everything he has done and we express our deepest condolences to his family.
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.
Here Are LFNKR’s Latest Tweets
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
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.
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.
By Local LFNKR Staff Member
I know that people around the world believe that there is no freedom of speech in North Korea. This is not wrong. However, we do have one – and only one – exceptional place where we can enjoy freedom of speech. This is in our trains. We have a strict status-oriented society, which means rigid discriminations of rank. So our trains have special compartments for top officials.
Address to International Media Forum
Mr. Hiroshi Kato, executive director of LFNKR, was invited to the International Media Forum event titled “Inside North Korea” held on April 1 at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo. The Forum had 41 participants, including NGO groups, Japanese and foreign media and diplomats. Mr. Kato’s gave an outline of this group’s activities along with some specific figures.
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.
Witnesses Tell of Gross Cruelty
The chief of a UN inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea was “moved to tears” by witness testimony revealing “gross human rights violations”.
According to BBC reports, retired judge Michael Kirby said that the inquiry had gathered “copious evidence” of rights abuses in North Korea.
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.
UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea held hearings in Seoul Korea from August 20th through 24th, then reconvened in Tokyo to hear from further witnesses related to Japanese citizens impacted by North Korea’s actions. Michael Kirby chaired the Commission. Streaming video lets you hear all testimony.
On August 29 and 30, an official Commission of Inquiry (COI) public hearing was held at the UN University in Tokyo. The following speech was presented by Mr. Hiroshi Kato, the executive director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR).
Then, in parallel with the official hearing, three members of the UN Commission of Inquiry quietly visited the LFNKR office to hold a private, closed-door interview. Click here for an outline of the public hearing.
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.
North Korea: What it says about you and me
When I was twelve, simply another angst-stricken, preteen lost soul, I discovered the concentration camps of North Korea and the inhumanity of the regime and have carried the grievous burden of having this knowledge and desperately wanting to help but having no way of knowing how or even where to start. Perhaps the most painful lesson of all to learn was that few listen and few care. The first time a child’s pleas for something unselfish are disregarded is the instant in which their innocence is torn away and they become aware of what our world has come to.
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.
By LFNKR local staff member in China
A group of typical students study at one of our foster care shelters in China. The shelter is situated near the North Korean border. It is true that the North Korean government provides facilities in each province to accommodate Kot-jebi (homeless street children). However, since the facilities are chronically short of food, many children, driven by hunger, run away to seek food on their own.
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.
Groups Present a United Front
LFNKR hosted on May 7, 2013 a press conference in the Diet Members’ Building in Tokyo, which was attended by representatives from several other NGOs also engaged in the North Korea human rights issue. The event was covered by journalists from NHK, Kyodo News, Mainichi Newspapers, One Korea Daily News, Mindan (Korean Residents Union in Japan) Newspaper, and The Wall Street Journal.
Warning: Extremely Graphic Scenes of Violence
YouTube footage showing scenes from the book about Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So (NK Death Camp) can be viewed at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vasmLxi_2Ew The eight-and-a-half minute, un-narrated video shows scenes of such brutality that only those with strong stomachs should watch what is being done to North Koreans every day.
Joint Protest Held in Tokyo
North Korea conducted yet another nuclear test blast on Feb. 12. The North Korean regime is obviously escalating its clear threat to international peace and security. In response, on Feb. 13, LFNKR joined other Japanese NGOs that have an interest in North Korean human rights issues in public protests against the nuclear test. The protest was held in front of the Tokyo Headquarters of The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. The General Association functions as North Korea’s de facto embassy in Japan.
Squandering National Resources
This organization, (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) strongly protests the missile-launching test that North Korea carried out on Dec. 12, 2012. According to reports, this launch was yet another test of banned ballistic missile technology.
LFNKR, working jointly with several South Korean NGOs, launched last month 20 large balloons into the skies above North Korea to carry 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of Choco Pies, along with a total of 3,000 leaflets. The site chosen for launching the balloons was Ganghwa Island, a site very close to NK. The island is located in the estuary of the Han River, on the west coast of South Korea.
The 9th annual North Korea Freedom Week starts this Sunday in Seoul, while a simultaneous NK Freedom Week event will also be held in London. Many of the events in Seoul are being led by North Korean defectors who had participated in the NKFW during the first six years it was held in Washington, D.C.
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.
LFNKR Staff Member Visits Yanbian, China
For the first time in more than ten years, I visited China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Recently, China has undergone remarkable economic development, and its impact has reached even China’s northeastern region of Yanbian. From my previous visit, I recall low-rise buildings scattered about and old Soviet-made cars on dilapidated roads.
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.
Foster Parent Program
In early August of 2011, scholarships for the new fiscal year were awarded to our foster education children. And we were able to add one new child to those receiving scholarships for a total of 20 recipients. This latest child is a boy born in 2004. Like so many so-called “shadow children,” his mother is a North Korean defector, and his father is ethnic Han Chinese.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.