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.

According to reports, Ms. Saito escaped into China in the year 2000, aided by a Chinese broker.  In August 2001, she made it back to Japan, instructed by the Chinese broker to claim that a woman accompanying her was her eldest daughter.  Later, following the same broker’s instructions, Saito aided the illegal entry of three more Chinese, falsely stating that they were also relatives, although they are unrelated.

This case highlights the need for prompt preventive measures, since it is highly likely to be repeated.  Below is the story of how Saito escaped from North Korea, returned to Japan, then ended up being arrested in Osaka.

Broker lured Saito to escape from North Korea

The broker, whose specialty is helping people escape from North Korea, discovered that Ms. Saito was a Japanese-born wife of a North Korean, so he paid her a visit.  He suggested she call her relatives in Japan.

At that time, she had no intention of returning to Japan, but she did wish to phone her relatives.  At the broker’s suggestion, Saito followed him to China.

Once they arrived in China, the broker told her that he could arrange for her to go back to Japan, but only if she took a Chinese woman as her daughter. The Chinese woman was unrelated, a total stranger.

It became painfully clear to her at this point that if she rejected his offer, she would be reported to the Chinese police or be sold to someone.  Saito’s least objectionable choice was to obey the broker, since her fate in China depended solely on him.

Japan’s government must effectively protect Japanese wives

Ms. Saito’s case is typical of what Japanese wives encounter when they reach the North Korean-Chinese border area.  Other Japanese wives reaching this area are almost certain to be caught up in the same situation.

Unfortunately, no adequate system has been established that can promptly protect Japanese wives who have escaped from North Korea.  They are highly likely to fall into the hands of local brokers and become their victims.

The brokers will probably force them to aid illegal entry of Chinese people into Japan or demand that Japanese diplomatic missions pay outrageous sums in exchange for “custody” of the Japanese wives.

To avoid an ongoing string of such outrages, the Japanese government is urged to establish an effective system by which they can provide Japanese wives with immediate protection.  Similar tragedies are sure to continue unless defecting Japanese wives are placed under the protection of the Japanese government before brokers can reach them.

It is a cruel irony that they are forced to violate the laws of their homeland so that they can return to the land of their birth.  Former North Korean defectors who have successfully resettled in Japan and Japanese wives who have luckily made their way back to Japan will be happy to provide information to help others avoid such tragedies.

LFNKR is of course willing to provide help whenever it receives requests from a Japanese wife facing difficulties.

Again, we urge the Japanese government to take proactive measures rather than continue its passive attitude toward the protection of Japanese wives.

Report by Takayuki Noguchi
(LFNKR director)