LFNKR’s 2012 Annual Report

Annual Report Released at 15th General Meeting 10/8/2012

Attending LFNKR’s 15th Annual Meeting in Tokyo this year were five North Korean defectors who have settled in Japan. They talked about how they had managed to survive and how they made a living in North Korea. They also discussed some of the difficulties they endured before finally making it to Japan.

The refugees received endless questions from Japanese attendees, who were all excited to talk directly with North Korean refugees. One of the refugees had reached Japan only 3 months earlier.

Introduction

North Korea’s failing economy appears to have brought back starvation similar to that in the late ’90s. During this year’s spring and summer, natural disasters seriously impacted grain production. In particular, the drought in Hwanghae-do and the flooding in Pyeongannam-do, have led to worsening food shortages in major cities.

Meanwhile, since the death of Kim Jong-il, the Kim Jong-un regime has been clearly demonstrating his strict obedience to his father’s “military-first” policy. This means that the serious human rights violations in North Korea are very likely to continue unchanged. There is no sign of movement toward a solution of the abduction issue.

In China, a new immigration control law was established at the end of June 2012 to further toughen the crackdown on illegal immigrants, which is causing even greater hardship for North Korean refugees trying to escape into China.

North Korean defectors still flowing out

According to statistics provided by the South Korea Ministry of Unification, the number of North Korean defectors from 2002 to 2006 averaged around 1,000 yearly, and then jumped to approximately 2,000 in 2007.

In 2011 alone, 2,737 defectors resettled in South Korea. The first half of 2012 saw more than 1,300 defectors. LFNKR helped 8 of those defectors reach safe zones in fiscal year 2012 (Sept. 1, 2011 through Aug. 31, 2012).

Both North Korea and China have been jointly reinforcing their border guard system to block North Korean defectors, while the number of brokers working in North Korea and China has drastically decreased.

For a time, the Bangkok Immigration Detention Center was seriously overcrowded, with more than twice their usual capacity of North Korean defectors being accommodated. The number of defectors, however, has recently dropped back down to former levels.

Summary of LFNKR activities during past fiscal year
(Sept. 1, 2011 to Aug. 31, 2012)

Activities from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011

Sept. 7~8: Attended International Conference of ICNK (The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea)

Oct. 9: Held the 14th LFNKR general meeting in Tokyo

Dec. 28: Concluded the second term at the Japanese Language Education Center for NK refugee

Activities from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2012

Feb. 2: 3 NK refugees from rescue operation “Dragon 0201” entered Japan

Feb. 4: Participated in One-World Festival (annual event for NGOs dealing with issues of human rights violation, refugees, ethnic disputes, poverty, etc.)

Feb. 6: Held lectures in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan during the human rights enlightenment week

Feb. 7: Gave lectures with visual materials at seminar hosted by League of Parliamentarians for Early Repatriation of Japanese Citizens Abducted by North Korea

Feb. 9: Initiated rescue operation “Dragon 0209”

Mar. 24: Concluded the third term at the Japanese Language Education Center for NK refugees

Apr. 8: Cherry-blossom friendship gathering at Shinjuku Park in Tokyo

May 4: Held Symposium on North Korea in Tokyo

June 13: Gave lectures in Gunma Prefecture on North Korean human rights issue

Jul. 16: Gave lectures in Kanagawa Prefecture on North Korean human rights issue

Aug. 7: Urged South Korean Embassy in Thailand to protect North Korean refugees suffering from tuberculosis

Aug. 23: Helped 2 children and 1 grandchild of an NK refugee couple already in Japan to join the couple

Additional explanation of LFNKR Activities

1. Rescuing North Korean refugees who wish to resettle
in Japan

LFNKR continues to engage in the rescue of North Korean refugees while carefully maintaining a low profile for safe rescue conditions. Three people made it to safe zones in February 2012, and five in August 2012. A new characteristic among recent North Korean defectors is that they are relatives or even immediate family members of those who have already resettled in South Korea or Japan.

2. Japanese Language Education Center for North Korean
Immigrants in Japan

In response to a request from Cultural Affairs Agency of the Japanese government, LFNKR has implemented a program for North Korean permanent residents to learn the Japanese language (60hrs. for the 1st term and another 60hrs. for the 2nd term). The two terms subsidized by the Agency were not enough language training, so LFNKR raised funds to add a 3rd term for the students requesting additional classes (total of 180hrs. of Japanese language classes).

See: http://www.northkoreanrefugees.com/2011-07-center.htm

3. Distribution of food and medicines

Because of the stepped-up border security, very few North Koreans can cross the border to visit LFNKR shelters where we supply food. During the past year, LFNKR has supplied a total of 50 tons of food mainly to orphanages and hospitals in Ryangang-do and North Hamgyong. In addition, we have supplied food for 20 Kkot-jebi (homeless children), who are hiding in the Baekdu Mountain area on the China side facing Hyesan, Ryangang-do. LFNKR continues to pay the medical expenses for a North Korean boy who lost both feet due to the combination of frost bite and burns. In the near future, we will help the boy be fitted for prosthetic limbs. In addition, LFNKR has supplied 600 home medical kits to North Korea.

4. Education sponsorship program

For the new school year in China, which starts in September, LFNKR has supplied the money to cover shelter and education expenses for the first half term for twenty foster children in China.

When our education sponsorship program started in 1998, almost all the children were orphans from North Korea. The twenty foster children currently under the LFNKR education sponsorship program are mostly children born between North Korean female victims of human trafficking and Chinese men incapable of rearing their children. Some local governments in China have started to recognize the situation and allow those children formal census registration. However, their North Korean mothers are not granted resident status; instead, they are still arrested and forcibly repatriated. So, we should continue urging China to also grant the North Korean mothers resident status.

The policy of the Chinese government toward North Korean orphans is changing. From the latter half of the 1990’s to the first half of 2000’s, North Korean orphans and North Korean women accompanied by their children were all arrested and forcibly sent back to North Korea. Since then, children whose fathers are Chinese are allowed to stay and only their North Korean mothers are being sent back.

5. Cooperation with other international and domestic NGOs

In addressing the North Korea human rights violation issue, LFNKR has been working jointly with more than 20 domestic and international NGOs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI), CSW (Christian Solidarity Worldwide), Human Rights Without Frontiers (Belgium), Defense Forum (US), Freedom House (US), US Commission for Human Rights in North Korea, Open Radio (South Korea), Democracy Network against North Korea Gulag (South Korea), No Fence (Japan), and The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea (Japan).

5-1. Establishment of ICNK

On Sept. 7 and 8, 2011, 43 human rights NGOs, including AI and HRW, gathered in Tokyo from 15 nations to establish The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK). The goal of the international coalition is to establish a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity in North Korea.

For your reference:
http://www.northkoreanrefugees.com/2011-09-icnkreport.htm

LFNKR is actively engaging in these activities with the ICNK group mainly by lobbying Japanese bipartisan parliamentarians and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pass a parliamentary resolution, thus preparing for the UN General Assembly. On April 3, 2012, the ICNK lawyer group, including Mr. Gerald Guenther, an international lawyer who handled the cases of Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi, announced that they had submitted to 12 UN human rights related agencies a petition for rescuing the prisoners in the concentration camps in North Korea. The petition urges the UN to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the ongoing crimes against humanity in North Korea.

5-2. Presenting “the crimes against humanity” to the
Spanish National Court

On June 29, 2012, LFNKR, together with 18 NGOs from South Korea, US, UK, France, and Japan, established the International Network of North Korea Human rights Activists to accuse Kim Jong-il of crimes against humanity before the Spanish National Court. This is another step forward to strengthen our efforts to urge the resolution of the human rights issue in North Korea. The indictment has been accepted by the Court, and we await a defense speech from North Korea.

5-3. Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique new process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. LFNKR joined the first review of human rights in North Korea in 2009 by submitting reports, and participating in panel discussions and press conferences in Geneva. In 2011, LFNKR submitted a follow-up report to UPR info. To be qualified to participate in the UPR, NGOs are required to obtain consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. This requirement is not easy to fulfill. We have now applied a second time and are awaiting their decision.

For more details, read:
http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/upr/pages/uprmain.aspx

5-4. Tie-up with medical aid NGO terminated

The tie-up with an international medical emergency aid NGO was terminated in September 2012. Although we have been able to provide North Korean refugees escaping from their country with necessary emergency medical care so far, we need to seek another, more reliable group willing to provide medical care on a more consistent basis.

6. English website, PayPal donors, and citizen supporters

LFNKR has tried harder to add to the information posted on our English website, because we consider our websites (in Japanese and English) as important tools for publicizing the plight of North Korean refugees. While we translated and posted a total of 19 articles during the previous fiscal year, this year we increased the number of translated articles to 34, partly thanks to the help of a dependable translation volunteer in the US.

Our activities are solely financed by donations from individuals. There were 342 donations through PayPal during the past year, an increase of slightly more than 100 over the previous year. However, the total amount donated did not exceed the amount received in the previous year because there were fewer large donations. LFNKR deeply appreciates all donations. They support the lives of the still-suffering North Korean refugees.

LFNKR extends a special note of gratitude to the members of ARC headquarters in Washington DC. For several years now, they have been sending us hand knitted goods to help keep North Korean refugees warm during the cold winter months.

7. Problems Remaining to be Solved

As we mentioned in last year’s report, we continue to receive 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. A certain degree of tough-minded pragmatism is demanded for accomplishing the missions.

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.