LFNKR Annual Report Released for 2011
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.
The food shortage is extremely serious. While Russia has promised to supply 50,000 tons of food aid, China is limiting the food items that can be exported to North Korea to wheat and corn. China’s top priority is on securing food for its own people.
The North Korean regime has instituted several measures to correct the uncertainty.
As one of their emergency measures, the head of the Labor Party has issued an order requiring every representative engaged in an overseas trading business to immediately send 5,000RMB (approx. 800USD) to the government. If they fail to follow this order, then they will be forcibly brought back to North Korea. Those engaged in overseas trading businesses try very hard to keep their business going, since they would hate to lose the “sweet” advantages they have grown fond of.
Outflow of North Korean defectors continues
As of the end of 2010, more than 20,000 North Korean defectors in total had entered South Korea (reference data: 2,927 defectors in 2009 and 2,376 defectors in 2010). Judging from the recent serious food shortage, the total number of defectors is expected to continue rising in 2011. The National Security Dept. of North Korea has organized a “blast legion” to beef up border security.
The Chinese government has also been stepping up measures to prevent the entry of North Korean defectors by organizing a system covering all levels, including Communist Party committee chairpersons, mayors, police department heads, border guard commanding officers, and village headmen. This system appears to be effective. The number of North Korean defectors successfully crossing the border has rapidly fallen.
Nevertheless, the outflow of North Koreans does continue. The number of defectors being detained by the immigration authorities in Southeast Asian countries is more than twice the combined capacities of their facilities. Over 80% of all defectors are female.
Summary of LFNKR activities during past fiscal year
(Sept. 1, 2010 to Aug. 31, 2011)
Activities from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2010
Sept. 10~14: Rescue operation “Tiger-2” successfully concluded
Oct. 10: Received inspectors from National Revenue Service, who gathered information in preparation to authorize LFNKR as an official NPO
Oct. 22: Discussion with the human rights study group of Tokyo Bar Association
Nov. 3: Hosted a very successful charity concert
Nov. 19: Co-hosted a party to celebrate Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize
Nov. 26: Hearing at Tokyo Bar Association
Dec. 9: North Korean Human Rights symposium at Tokyo Bar Association
Dec. 21: LFNKR approved as an authorized NPO
Activities from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2011
Jan. 12: NK refugees from rescue operation “Tiger-2” entered Japan
Jan 25: Held discussions with Mr. Maruzuki Darusman, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea
Feb. 5-6: Participated in one-world festival
Feb. 12: New Year’s party
Feb. 16: NK refugees from rescue operation “Rabbit-2” entered Japan
Feb. 23: NK refugees from “Tiger-2” visited Tokyo Immigration office to prepare for receiving permanent visa
Mar. 5: Meeting with translation team for the white paper on North Korean human rights 2010
Mar. 24: Visited the area stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake to supply 20,000 toothbrushes
(read more about this)
Apr. 14: Held discussions with members of Open Society Institute
Apr. 2: Rescue Operation Rabbit-3 successfully concluded
Apr. 19: Visited Center for supporting Returnees from China and their settlement in Japan (This was to explore the possibility of sharing their facilities for NK refugees settling in Japan.)
Apr. 20-21: Supplied 1,000 notebooks to an elementary school in Rikuzen-Takada City seriously affected by Great Earthquake
May 6: Received two NK refugees who had been confined within the Japanese consulate in Shengyang, China for 2 years
May 27: Final meeting for starting Japanese Language Education Center for NK refugees
Jun. 17: Discussion with Mr. Peter Hughes, British Ambassador to Pyongyang
Jun. 28: Published the Japanese version of the white paper on North Korean human rights 2010 (http://www.northkoreanrefugees.com/2011-07-whitepaper.htm)
Jun. 29: Opened the Japanese Language Education Center for NK refugees
(read more about this)
Jul. 26: Initiated rescue operation Rabbit-4
Aug. 24: Japanese Members of Parliament visited the Japanese language class
Additional explanation of LFNKR Activities
1. Rescuing North Korean refugees
Our continued efforts to help refugees quietly are yielding positive results. We have successfully brought a total of 13 people to safe areas during the past year; two in January, two in February, three in April, three in May, and three in August. Of the 13 people, 10 were allowed to settle in Japan.
2. Establishing Japanese Language Education Center run by LFNKR
Cultural Affairs Agency of the Japanese government commissioned LFNKR to manage the Education Center for helping refugees settling in Japan. The first 60-hour term has finished. In future classes, it will be necessary to assign students to different classes based upon their level. The second 60-hours term is expected to begin in October.
3. Distribution of medicines and food
Due to the more severe crackdown at the North Korean-Chinese border combined with one of the LFNKR shelters being forced to close down, the distribution of food and medicines has been reduced. During the past year, we distributed 40 tons of wheat, 15 tons of rice, and 330 sets of home medical kits to North Korea through our shelters located in the border area.
4. Education Sponsorship Program
Since the education sponsorship program was launched in 1998, more than 100 foster children have been protected and supported by the LFNKR program. We have witnessed changes in the political and social conditions surrounding our foster children in China.
In recent years, the number of “Kot-jebi,” defector orphans who become street children, has fallen drastically. Instead, there is a growing number of second-generation defector children with no national identities (born to female victims of human trafficking and Chinese men). Most of their Chinese fathers are incompetent to rear the children and often abandon them. Their mothers, who should be qualified to stay in China to take care of the children, are still being arrested and sent back to North Korea by the Chinese authorities. For this reason, more mothers have recently been trying to find a way to reach South Korea alone first, simply regarding China as a temporary passage to reach their objective.
In a large and very welcome change, local Chinese governments are starting to reluctantly grant legal family registration to those second-generation defector children. This, however, does not mean that the orphans are well taken care of or that they receive minimum educations.
Currently, just over 20 orphans are being supported under our education sponsorship program. The child support and educational expenses are supplied through our local staff. The recent status of these foster children is being reported mainly in our Japanese language LFNKR newsletter.
5. Co-operation with other international and domestic NGOs
Our joint efforts with international groups, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF), Amnesty International (AI), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), No Fence, and Open North Korea have successfully led to an international conference that launched the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity In North Korea. In addition, co-operation with Japanese groups engaged in the abductee issue has been strengthened under the theme of “human rights in North Korea.”
The aim of the international NGO coalition is to add a measure to the resolution on North Korean human rights at the UN General Assembly that would establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in North Korea.
In addition, we stay in close contact and work together with an international emergency medical care team to help North Korean refugees in need of emergency treatment.
6. Donations, etc.
Our activities are solely financed by donations from individuals, and the number of supporters and donors has steadily increased, although the total amount of the donations has not dramatically risen. In the past year, we received several relatively large one-time donations.
Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, some LFNKR members asked us to accept and deliver donations and relief supplies specifically for the earthquake disaster victims, because they know that over the past several years, we have distributed relief supplies to needy North Korean refugees. Although delivering such donations and relief supplies was outside the scope of our mission, as specified by our standing rule, we agreed to help in this case.
6-1. Donations through Japanese E-kokoro donation website
Internet shoppers in Japan can now donate a certain percentage of their shopping amounts to LFNKR. During the past year, LFNKR has received 21,916 yen via this route.
6-2. Charity concert
In order to get new supporters and to raise funds, LFNKR held a charity concert in November, 2010. LFNKR expected to see around 70 visitors, but more than 80 actually showed up. Several people commented that the 3,000-yen admission fee was too low for the inspiring piano playing of Mr. Atsushi Abe, and they left additional donations with us. We were delighted that our donation goal was reached.
6-3. Donation by PayPal
Fortunately, despite the prolonged recession, donors in Japan and abroad have donated 228 times (a total of US $11,784.95), which is slightly ahead of last year’s total. The monthly subscription donors are a great help in keeping a stable level of donations flowing in.
7. Overseas supporters
We have supporters, many of whom are donors, mainly in the US, Canada, and Europe.
7-1. Participant in LFNKR education sponsorship program
Last fall, an American joined our education sponsorship program. Since he does not read or write Japanese, one of our staff members translated the original Japanese documents describing the background of the current foster children and sent him the translations. He offered to rewrite the translated English documents and also kindly offered to continue doing the same in the future.
7-2. Volunteer translators
Fortunately, this year, we have gained an excellent US-based translator who translates Japanese into English. She has been helping us by translating the articles in our newsletters, which we mail out to members in Japan from time to time. The more translation volunteers we can find, the more often we will be able to update our English website. LFNKR would welcome more support of this type.
7-3. Hand-knitting volunteers
A few times on our English website we have mentioned the ladies in the US who, since 2009, have been donating hand-knitted caps, scarves and gloves for North Korean refugees. After the Great Earthquake in Japan, they kindly offered to send knitted goods for these victims as well. A lady in the group joined The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC this year and raised funds to send to the Tohoku area, where most of the damage occurred.
(read more about this)
8. Publicity for overseas
Nine years ago, LFNKR started sending out English emails and newsletter articles to many of our subscribers and supporters overseas. In recent months, however, many of the emails being sent out did not reach the intended receivers. This may be because so many Internet service providers around the world have tightened their junk mail blocking. The result is that our emails, which are simultaneously sent out to hundreds of people, are often incorrectly filtered as junk email.
We decided, therefore, to discontinue our English emails to the subscribers and supporters overseas after we sent one last thank-you message to everyone in response to the messages of concern and encouragement we received from overseas following the Great Earthquake.
LFNKR will strive to enrich our English website to replace the emails we used to send out.
Among the articles posted on our English website, many are about the North Korean defectors whom LFNKR has helped to reach Japan and then to settle into Japanese society. While the number of defectors coming out of North Korea continues to drop due to the ever-tighter security all along the border, the refugees who have settled in Japan are beginning to show successful results. They have overcome many difficulties as they adapted to the new culture. Our reporting will shift slightly, with a new emphasis on how they are doing in Japan and how they are working to acquire new, happier lives here. We believe that this will encourage overseas supporters also.
9. Domestic publicity
For the past year, we were too short-handed to hold major seminars in Japan. We were busy with rescue operations and protest activities, such as holding press conferences protesting against the Chinese government. It took 2 years for the four North Korean refugees to be released from the Japanese consulate in Shengyang because of the intransigence of the Chinese government.
(read more about this)
However, LFNKR is proud of completing the translation of the white paper on North Korean human rights 2010. We published the Japanese version at the end of June this year. This book is a valuable resource in gaining publicity for our group in Japan.
10. Problems Remaining to be Solved
We are increasingly receiving emails from abroad asking if we will accept interns. Quite a few of them wish to go out into the field and engage in rescue operations, even though their linguistic skills in Korean or Chinese are often not good enough for the task. Also, their motivations are based solely on compassionate feeling, which, though admirable, is not enough for working under the risky conditions involved in rescue operations.
Desirable interns or volunteers would have the following qualifications:
(1) Fluent in Japanese-English or Korean-Japanese and capable of handling emails;
(2) Residing in Southeast Asia and fluent in Japanese-Korean or Korean-English, and have good understanding of the North Korean human rights issue; or
(3) Capable of setting up and running LFNKR websites in Hangul or Chinese.