LFNKR Annual Report Released
When North Korea suddenly switched to a new currency in November 2009, the low limit for exchanges ensured that any savings accumulated in old currency by North Koreans largely vanished. This demonstrates that although the developing private market activity had only reached a rudimentary level, it was possible for people to accumulate new wealth. This growing segment of newly wealthy was dominating distribution and their voices began to be heard in their communities.
That growth had appeared to be a looming crisis that could shake the foundation of Kim Jong Il’s regime. Thus, issuing the new currency may have been an attempt by the North Korean government to wipe out the new wealth and to muzzle dissenting political voices.
People were left with piles of worthless notes – and a deep grudge against the government.
UN Resolution condemning the violation of human rights in North Korea adopted for 5 consecutive years
In December last year, the UN Resolution condemning the violation of human rights in North Korea was adopted, marking the fifth consecutive year such a resolution was passed. Clearly, the violations of human rights in North Korea are now much more widely recognized by the world community.
In the universal periodic review of the human rights situation in North Korea carried out by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a large number of countries expressed deep concern about the human rights situation and recommendations were proposed.
The international isolation of North Korea continues to grow more serious.
LFNKR reported to The United Nations Human Rights Council on the Violation of Human Rights in North Korea jointly with Human Rights Without Borders, and our representatives visited all of the member states of the Council having embassies in Tokyo.
Unstable elements in Northeast Asia
In February 2010, the South Korean navy ship “Cheonan” was attacked and sunk by a North Korean torpedo. This situation poses a serious threat to peace and security in Northeast Asia. The US-South Korea joint military exercise and the participation of The US aircraft carrier USS George Washington in response to the sinking have caused tension in relations with China. This is raising the chances of instability in Northeast Asia
About 3,000 North Korean defectors have reached South Korea so far this year. Since 1959 this number totals about 30,000 NK defectors resettling in South Korea. Leading up to the Beijing Olympic Games, the number of border guards at the China-North Korea border was raised, and this level has been maintained ever since. In addition to regular guards, citizens in the border area have been mobilized and organized into civilian patrols. For that reason, there are drastically fewer people now crossing the border with the intention of defecting.
The Chinese border guards have grown more nervous about the problem of minorities.
Even now, the Chinese borders are still being guarded as stringently as they were during The Beijing Olympic Games. China’s most pressing worries are the Tibetan and Uzbek independence activities, against which they are applying the Anti-secession law. Although the problem of North Korean defectors seems to be secondary, it is still taken seriously as an ethnic problem linked to peace and security in Northeast Asia.
Thus, Chinese authorities are cracking down hard on anyone who tries to escape via the Southeast Asian route. Naturally, North Korean defectors fall under this policy as well. Chinese authorities have a special cooperative arrangement with Lao and Myanmar police and border guards. China’s flow of aid to neighboring countries is a part of its security policy, and this policy appears to be succeeding. Naturally, North Korean defectors seeking a safe haven are heavily impacted by these policies.
Summary of activities in past FY (Sept 1, 2009 to Aug. 31, 2010)
Activities from Sept. 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009
Sept. 18: Discussions on the North Korean human rights issue with a French ex-minister of education
Oct. 3: Publicity work featuring our activities (at Miyagi Messe in Sendai, Japan)
Oct. 4: Participation in Global Fiesta in Hibiya Park, Tokyo
Oct. 17: Visit to a farm in Hirosaki, Aomori seeking job opportunities for North Korean refugees resettling in Japan
Oct. 23~24: Participation with Masako Arakawa, a North Korean defector, in a lecture on North Korean refugees at Hokkaido branch for The Korean Residents Union in Japan
Oct. 30~Nov. 13: A reunion with former foster children in London, Lobbying UNHRC in Geneva
Nov. 27~28 Participation in the annual meeting of the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and human rights (IPCNKR). Inspection of the Thai-Lao border area, one of the primary escape routes for North Korean defectors
Dec. 2~7: Participation in the universal periodic review of the human rights situation in North Korea by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Lobbying
Participation in the international conference on bringing Kim Jong Ill before the International Court of Justice (ICC) for crimes against humanity
Dec. 12: Participation in the academic conference of The Asian Human Rights and Humanity Association of Japan
Dec. 13: Participation in a meeting marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the Return to North Korea Project in Niigata
Dec. 14: An anniversary speech at a meeting held by The Niigata branch of Korean Residents Union in Japan
Activities in the period from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2010
Jan. 15: Rescue operation CT-3 successfully concluded
Jan. 20: Discussions with Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation on Human Rights in the DPRK at United Nations university
Jan. 29: Press conference and a talk show about the movie “Crossing” at the Korean Culture Center
Feb. 6~7: One world Festival at Osaka International House
Feb. 26: Meeting with the company distributing “Crossing” to discuss cooperation
Mar. 28: Discussions with CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) in London
April 24: New book was released by LFNKR director, Noguchi Takayuki
May 1: “Crossing” began screening. Talk show at Ginza Cinepathos in Tokyo
June 29: LFNKR nominated for US State Department’s 2009 Freedom Defender Award
July 4: Rescue operation HT-2 successfully concluded
Aug. 7: Barbecue friendship party in Okutama, Tokyo
1. LFNKR human rights activities domestically and internationally
The US embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission James Zumwalt presented Kato Hiroshi, on behalf of LFNKR, with a certificate to honor his nomination by the Embassy for the State Department’s 2009 Freedom Defender Award. Last year, LFNKR was awarded the human rights prize by Tokyo Bar Association.
2. Activities to assist North Korean Refugees
Our efforts to help refugees reach safe areas are quietly and inconspicuously yielding success. We brought 13 North Korean refugees to safe zones during the past year. Five people (3 women and 2 children) have resettled in South Korea, and four (3 men and a woman) have resettled in Japan. In addition, 4 women and 2 men are under protection in a Japanese government establishment.
Though the Chinese authorities have cracked down hard, and our financial situation has taken a downward turn, our activities to help North Korean defectors have not suffered thanks to financial support from a friendly NGO.
3. Distribution of medicines and food
We distributed 54 tons of rice and 2,550 home medical kits to North Korea through our shelters located in the China-North Korea border area. These medical kits represent a 230 percent increase over last year’s numbers.
4. Education Sponsorship Program
As of this fiscal year, more than 100 foster children have been provided protection and schooling under LFNKR’s education sponsorship program, which began in 1998.
Among these children, we have lost touch with a few who were arrested by Chinese authorities and repatriated. Some children also escaped and scattered into other hiding places in China when the authorities raided a few of our shelters. We have heard nothing from these children as well. The political and social conditions for foster children in China remain difficult.
As the number of North Korean defector orphans termed “Kot-chebi” (street children) has fallen, we have seen a concurrent increase in the number of children born to defector mothers and Chinese fathers. These children, who have no nationality, are the so-called “second generation” of defectors. Although the fathers of such children are typically unable or unwilling to care for them, Chinese authorities continue to arrest and repatriate the mothers, who would otherwise be able to stay with their children. These mothers should be granted permission to stay in China.
Under these conditions, it is natural that we are seeing an increase in the number of mothers who consider China only a temporary place to stay while they seek a way to enter South Korea on their own. These children are denied the right of nationality and cannot be registered, so are shut off from any opportunity for higher education, even though they may be highly gifted.
Not only are they “unqualified” to take school entrance examinations, but there is also the constant risk of being arrested and forcibly deported to North Korea. This risk always hangs over them and their mothers. The number of such “second generation” defector children continues to grow.
These children, when they reach school age, are literally abandoned by the Chinese government. This is a clear human rights issue, and it should be resolved internally by the Chinese government, without waiting to be prodded by the international community.
Our Japanese foster parents, who help support our child shelter activities, receive regular updates on the current situation of children through our news releases and letters. Our activities provide a measure of protection for the orphans from North Korea as well as the abandoned children born to Chinese fathers and North Korean defector mothers who have been forcibly repatriated and are denied their right to care for their own children. For the time being, we are protecting 34 orphans through our foster system, with the help of our supporters.
5. Co-operation with other international and domestic NGOs continues to expand
We are stepping up our co-operative efforts with other international and domestic NGOs. We are also working more closely with the universal periodic review for the human rights situation in North Korea, which is coordinated by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). We have also established closer ties with Human Rights Without Borders, HRW, UNW and other NGOs. Additional interaction is being pursued with NGOs related to the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
6. International Conferences on North Korean refugees and their rights
Although we received invitations to participate in eight different seminars, we were able to join only four of them. This was partly due to financial limitations, preferring to direct the majority of our funding into rescue and fostering activities. Another reason was that, in some cases, other conferences were already treating, analyzing or researching the same topics
One major trend of this past year was the many seminars and conferences attempting to bring Kim Jong Ill before the ICC Court of Arbitration for crimes against humanity.
7. Progress in establishing our financial base
Expanding our acceptance of donations via the Internet by the use of online payment systems Paypal and E-kokoro (Japan’s click-donation site) helped our financial situation.
However, with the world recession, our finances are still far from satisfactory.
Since we joined the E-kokoro program in 2008, 52 people have registered with us as donors. Donations pledged now total \13,154, and of that amount, we have received \2,910 of it so far this year.
The effect of using E-kokoro is not yet clear regarding our main purpose, which is to increase visitors to our Japanese website. Leveraging our use of this asset is a priority, so we attended one seminar on fund-raising held by the United People Company, who run E-kokoro. However, when a similar seminar was held this year, we were unable to attend because all of our staff members were busy in NGO-related activities.
8. Publicity outside Japan, newsletter distribution, our English language website, and PayPal donation capabilities
The influence of our websites continues to grow, which helps spread information about our activities. Our Japanese and English websites are working very well to generate interest among the Japanese government, international institutions and foreign embassies
Visitors accessing our English language website averaged 11,317 per month this year, up 2,300 from the year before. This rise in visitors has led to an increase in inquiries from overseas. We have also received many email offers from people wishing to do volunteer work. This year in particular brought good fortune, since we gained new volunteer staff members from overseas through our English website.
In addition, our English language email newsletter made a net gain of 74 subscribers this year. One limitation this year was in the area of translating. We were unable to find enough volunteers to help with this work. This meant our English website was slow to be updated at times, and we sent out fewer email newsletters.
To solve this problem, we called for volunteer translators through our websites, and we found one who is capable of translating Japanese into English. Although this is a great help, we could use more help. With this extra help, we now expect to improve the frequency of our email newsletters, and we will be able to update our English website considerably more often. On the plus side, the increase in number of visitors also brought an increase in PayPal donations, now totaling 211 persons to date.
Total PayPal income is nearly double over last year. This drastic rise was due to the recent rapid increase in the number of Japanese donors using Paypal. Japanese visitors now account for 18% of all donors through Paypal.
This increase has been especially rapid since April, when the number of Japanese donors suddenly swelled. One important reason seems to be the screening of the movie “Crossing.” Another is the release of a popular new book by Noguchi Takayuki, one of LFNKR’s directors.
We are especially grateful to the 24 people who signed up with PayPal as monthly donors. Overall, online donations from abroad totaled US$5,095 and donations from within Japan were \241,000.
In the future we plan to provide reports on our websites on continuing relations with former foster children and defectors who have now settled in Japan.
9. The Movie “Crossing”
Screening of the movie “Crossing” was a factor in the growth in number of donations as well as number of members.
10. Problems Remaining to Be Solved
Though we made improvements as described above, there are further issues to resolve.
10-1. Though our activities are highly respected and expected to grow, our financial base is essentially weak. Co-operation activities with several other NGOs have increased, and with this, our share of the costs involved, so this is yet another contributing factor.
10-2. With our extended activities, our workload has grown, and two full-time workers are no longer enough. We need to more actively seek for volunteers and interns.
10-3. We also need additional volunteer translators for Japanese/English, Korean/Japanese and Chinese/Japanese for newsletters and international communications.
10-4. In our office, the photocopier and the printer are now old and need to be replaced. An additional PC is also necessary.
10-5. As the number of visitors to our office has grown along with our expanded activities, this more and more frequently interrupts routine administrative work. Thus, a separate conference room has become necessary for meeting with visiting officials and other interested parties.