Int’l Conference on NK Refugees

The First International Planning Conference…

… for the Rescue of North Korean Refugees and Humanitarian Aid Workers  hosted by the Japanese and Korean NGO Coalition was held in Tokyo on 18 and 19 July 2004. The two-day Conference, organized by three Japanese NGOs (The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea, RENK, and Life Funds for North Korean Refugees), attracted approximately 100 participants from 9 NGOs and 6 countries.

1st day (July 18, Sunday) at Bunkyo Civic Center, Tokyo
Chaired by Mr. Fumiaki Yamada (Representative of The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea, a Japanese NGO) and Ms. Im Hyeun Su

9:30 – Opening Session
Speech by Kenkichi Nakadaira and participants from abroad were introduced.

10:00 – Main Reports and Special Reports
Keynote speech by Hiroshi Kato (LFNKR);
Speech by Gerald Thorns (Global-Pac);
Speech by Kim Sang Hun (Int’l solidarity);
Speech by Kim Bong Soon (Wife of humanitarian aid worker)

12:00-13:00 – Luncheon
During the lunch break, a donation box was circulated to raise funds to help Kim Bong Soon and her two daughters travel to Yantai Prison in China where her husband, Choi Yong-hun, is being held. Donations totaled enough to pay their airfare to Yantai. Also, a petition addressed to President Hu Jintao was circulated. It was decided that the petition, signed by the participants, would be sent to the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo thanks to a suggestion by a Chinese participant, who pointed out that it would be more effective if sent via the Chinese Embassy in Japan.

13:00-16:00 – Sub-topic meetings

Group 1:
Discussed how to promote international solidarity
Chaired by Mr. Kim Sang Hun and Mr. Tim Peters
Mr. Masaharu Nakagawa, Japanese parliamentary member, also joined the discussion.
Group 1 Resolutions

Group 2:
Discussed how to strategically leverage the “2008 Beijing Olympics” to improve the plight of North Korean refugees hiding in China
Chaired by Mr. Fumiaki Yamada and Mr. Kan In Ku
Group 2 Resolutions

Group 3:
Discussed how to help North Korean refugees in China, and how to rescue detained aid workers as well as extend support to their families
Chaired by Mr. Chun Ki Won and Mr. Kikuchi
Group 3 Resolutions

16:00-17:00 – Comprehensive documentation
Results of discussions by the three groups were shared among all participants. Click for photos.

18:00 – Buffet party


2nd day (July 19, Monday)

11:00 Participants marched in an hour-long demonstration from Rekisen Park, in front of the Civic Center, to the Korean YMCA, which was the venue for the afternoon symposium.
The march was led by a traditional Korean drum, while a person wearing a Chinese police uniform dragged an effigy of a chained North Korean refugee to depict “repatriation.” (Click for photos) Several participants handed out fliers along the march.

13:00-16:00 Symposium at Korean YMCA in Tokyo

A segment of the BBC documentary titled “Access to Evil” was played to open the symposium.

The symposium focused on how to support the still detained aid workers and how to protest the ongoing repatriation being carried out by the Chinese government.

Chaired by Mr. Jiro Ishimaru (journalist), the symposium started with reports by Hiroshi Kato, Fumiaki Yamada, and Chun Ki Won, all of whom are aid workers who have been jailed in China, and Kim Bong Soon, wife of Choi Yong Hun, who is still imprisoned in China. Chronological report on Choi Yong-hun

During the symposium, the panelists talked about their jail experiences in China. A report featured the 17-year-old North Korean boy shot to death by Chinese border guards.

Mr. Fumiaki Yamada, who was jailed in Shanghai for three weeks, revealed his suspicions that he was released so quickly because of a large Japan-financed business project that was going on at the time. He believes, he said, that Chinese government decisions regarding when to release detained aid workers are not guided by law.

At the end of the symposium, postcards to be sent to Choi Yong-hun, South Korean aid worker, and Park Yong-chol, a North Korean refugee arrested and jailed together with Choi Yong-hun at the prison in Yantai, were sold out.


Proposal by the NGO, Human Rights without Frontiers

The Belgium-base NGO “Human Rights without Frontiers” was unable to attend the Tokyo Conference due to scheduling conflicts, but that organization submitted a detailed proposal outlining ideas for dealing with the legal abuse directed by China against human rights aid workers.
•  Read the HRWF Proposal (PDF document)