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Open Letter to China's Hu Jintao
April 16, 2003
Open Letter to President Hu Jintao, People's Republic of China

Your Excellency,

There are doubts regarding the report supplied by the Chinese government in reply to an inquiry about refugees from the Korean government. This is a critical issue from both humanitarian and human rights standpoints.

We of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), are convinced that "the facts" as reported by the Chinese government are false. In our search for truth in this matter, we are issuing this open letter to the Chinese government.

On April 9, Moon Kan-hyuen, a journalist with the Yonhap News Agency, reported that the International Trade Department of the South Korean Foreign Ministry (SKFM) had disagreed with Japanese news reports. SKFM claimed it was untrue that "the thirty North Korean refugees arrested during the 'Boat People' incident in January have been repatriated to North Korea," as reported in the Japanese press.

Through the South Korean Embassy in China, SKFM had, on the 9th, asked the Chinese Foreign Ministry (CFM) to check the accuracy of the report. They also repeated the view of their government regarding the handling of the defectors.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry announced that Chinese Foreign Ministry had checked with related agencies on the 9th, as requested, and officially issued confirmation that the Japanese media reports had no basis in fact.

SKFM added that, according to Chinese reports, 18 of the 30 boat people arrested in Yantai were North Koreans, 9 were Chinese, and two were South Koreans (Seok Jae hyum and Choi Yong hum).

The South Korean government emphasized that they intended to maintain their stance and that they planned to again request cooperation at the Chinese and South Korean Diplomatic Director-General Meeting to be held on the 10th.

We, therefore, demand answers to the following two simple questions:

QUESTION 1: China insists that they have not repatriated the 19 North Korean refugees arrested during the Boat People incident. If this is true, where are those 19 people now being detained?

The LFNKR has received the following information from a local reliable source:

Kim Un Kum (73), arrested together with the other North Korean refugees in Yantai, Shandong Province by the Yantai border guards in January, was repatriated from Dandong in China to Sinuiju in North Korea on January 25 by the Chinese authorities.

Following the 15-day interrogation at the temporary detention center in Sinuiju, Kim Un Kum was sent to the temporary detention center in Onsong, Hangyongbukuto, her home before escaping from North Korea.

Kim Un Kum was in such severe pain that she was unable to eat food and died on February 12, the day following her arrival at the temporary detention center in Onsong.

On January 23, the female returnee to North Korea from Japan, Ko Jong Mi (44) and her daughter (22) gave themselves up to the Yantai border guard station, believing that Japan, the land of her birth, and South Korea, the homeland of her parents, would surely help them.

On the 25th, Ko Jong Mi, in deep despair, tried to injure herself by swallowing her rings and buttons. She did this, hoping to avoid repatriation, while being transported by bus from Dalian to the Dandong border guard station located on the bank opposite Sinuiju, North Korea. The escort guards from Yantai completely ignored her, even though she was in great agony. They handed her over to the North Korean authorities who were waiting in Dandong, together with other North Korean refugees.

Based on the above two reports, it is obvious that at least three North Korean refugees are no longer in China.

QUESTION 2. If the Chinese government insists that these reports of repatriation are untrue, then where exactly are these three people now?

The Chinese government has a clear obligation to provide answers to these two straightforward questions for LFNKR and for the international community.

We have already submitted to the UNHCR headquarters and offices the petitions for refugee status for the 32 boat people arrested in Yantai. We remind all parties concerned that we have the data on each of these persons.

The following is the data on the three North Korean refugees whom the Chinese government insists are still in China:
  1. Name: Ko Jong Mi (female)
    Date of Birth: Sept. 23, 1960
    Place of Birth: Japan, Osaka, Ikunoku, Tennoji

  2. Name: Lee Yu Son (female)
    Date of Birth: Sept. 21, 1982
    Place of Birth: DPRK Pyon an Puk Do Shin Ij Yu City, Nam Son dong

  3. Name: Kim Un Kum (female)
    Date of Birth: June 25, 1931
    Place of Birth: DPRK Han Gyong Puk Do Myon Chon Kun

Kenkichi Nakadaira
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
A-101, 2-2-8 Nishikata, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0024
Tel/Fax 03-3815-8127