By Local LFNKR Staff Member
I know that people around the world believe that there is no freedom of speech in North Korea. This is not wrong. However, we do have one – and only one – exceptional place where we can enjoy freedom of speech. This is in our trains. We have a strict status-oriented society, which means rigid discriminations of rank. So our trains have special compartments for top officials.
Address to International Media Forum
Mr. Hiroshi Kato, executive director of LFNKR, was invited to the International Media Forum event titled “Inside North Korea” held on April 1 at Roppongi Hills in Tokyo. The Forum had 41 participants, including NGO groups, Japanese and foreign media and diplomats. Mr. Kato’s gave an outline of this group’s activities along with some specific figures.
Recruiting Volunteers To Expand Film Screenings
A German director has made a documentary film depicting the harrowing life of a young man who was born and raised in a North Korean political prison camp, and is currently living in South Korea after defecting from North Korea.
From 16th General Meeting. Oct. 20, 2013
LFNKR, in FY2012 (Sept. 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013), has witnessed improved awareness in the international community with respect to the North Korean human rights issue. The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK), was established in Sept. 2011. This organization, which includes 43 international NGOs in 15 countries, is engaged in lobbying activities. The ICNK group in Japan, of which LFNKR is also a member, has repeatedly visited Japanese Diet lawmakers and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) as well as a number of foreign embassies in Tokyo.
Storms of Arrests, Executions Seen
On Nov. 25, one of our local staff members (K-0078) in North Korea sent us a report on the most recent security measures being enacted at the border of Hyesan, Ryanggang-do. In October, North Korea started dispatching special inspection forces from the state security department and the people’s army political department to tighten their border security.
Seeking Solutions to the Problem
Mr. Hiroshi Kato, the secretary-general of LFNKR, and an expert on North Korean human rights issues, is often invited by leading Japanese universities to speak on this topic. Below is an outline of a recent lecture. It was presented at Meiji University on the 7th of November 2013. These lectures often inspire young people to join in our human rights activities.
Witnesses Tell of Gross Cruelty
The chief of a UN inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea was “moved to tears” by witness testimony revealing “gross human rights violations”.
According to BBC reports, retired judge Michael Kirby said that the inquiry had gathered “copious evidence” of rights abuses in North Korea.
China’s abuses also highlighted
Last week (October 22) saw China’s second review at the Human Rights Council. Under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the human rights record of each country is reviewed by member states and NGOs. Life Funds for North Korean Refugees was one of only two NGOs to raise China’s human rights abuses vis-a-vis North Korean refugees (the other being Human Rights Without Frontiers).
to Hold Public Hearings in UK And US
COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA
GENEVA, 17 October 2013 – The United Nations-mandated commission investigating the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) will begin next week a series of public hearings in the United Kingdom and the United States aimed at gathering information from witnesses on rights violations alleged to have occurred in the Asian nation.
UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea held hearings in Seoul Korea from August 20th through 24th, then reconvened in Tokyo to hear from further witnesses related to Japanese citizens impacted by North Korea’s actions. Michael Kirby chaired the Commission. Streaming video lets you hear all testimony.
Heaviest Rains in 40 Years Catastrophically Damage Grain Crops in North Korea
LFNKR local staff reports – the heaviest rains in 40 years have caused serious damage to grain producing areas in North Korea, including Hwanghae-do and Pyong-an Namdo. These two areas already suffered severe damage during the two previous years, and now they have been hit again. This, before they had a chance to recover from the devastation of last year and the year before.
On August 29 and 30, an official Commission of Inquiry (COI) public hearing was held at the UN University in Tokyo. The following speech was presented by Mr. Hiroshi Kato, the executive director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR).
Then, in parallel with the official hearing, three members of the UN Commission of Inquiry quietly visited the LFNKR office to hold a private, closed-door interview. Click here for an outline of the public hearing.
Studying Hard Every Day:
KH, who enrolled in nursing school in April, is about to start her summer vacation. It has been less than 5 years since KH came to Japan from North Korea. First she enrolled in, then graduated from, evening middle school. Next, she took enough units at the municipal high school to earn her high school graduation certificate in less than two years. This spring, she applied to take the entrance examination for a well-known nursing school. Competing against native Japanese high school students under the exact same conditions, she passed an exam for which only about 1 in 7 gains admission.
Reuters Reports on Revelations
We at LFNKR are glad to report that real results are beginning to flow from the U.N. Commission of Inquiry into North Korea human rights violations and whether those violations amount to crimes against humanity. We reported, back in May, that the Commission had been convened and was about to start its investigations.
Review by A. P. (an LFNKR director)
“The Defector,” a newly released documentary film follows two young women, Sook Ja and Yong Hee, whose experiences in escaping from North Korea are common to many women who have defected from that country.
The film opens with Sook-ja, whose older sister had left seven years earlier to seek work in China. The sister had planned to send money back to her family. Using an illegal cell phone, Sook-ja tries to contact her elder sister, but this phone call leads to her arrest by the North Korean police. Imprisoned, she vows to escape and flee the country.
UPDATE – July 11th:
The two North Korean women who were waiting for us to escort them to safety were successfully conducted to a safe zone and, once all official processing is completed, will be resettled in South Korea.
2nd UPDATE – August 30th:
The two North Korean women have now safely reached South Korea and are settling in to their new life of freedom.
North Korea: What it says about you and me
When I was twelve, simply another angst-stricken, preteen lost soul, I discovered the concentration camps of North Korea and the inhumanity of the regime and have carried the grievous burden of having this knowledge and desperately wanting to help but having no way of knowing how or even where to start. Perhaps the most painful lesson of all to learn was that few listen and few care. The first time a child’s pleas for something unselfish are disregarded is the instant in which their innocence is torn away and they become aware of what our world has come to.
Kim Jong-un, First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea,
Chairman of the National Defense Commission
Letter Dated: May 7, 2013
We, the undersigned human rights NGOs of Japan, without political, religious, or economic motives, met in Tokyo on May 7th to review the decades long, systematic, widespread, and grave human rights violations in North Korea, which are documented in the publications listed below, as well as multiple other sources of information.
More NK Refugees Awaiting Rescue – Help Us Get Them to Safety
LFNKR has received desperate cries for help from NK defectors. A severely physically handicapped father, 59, and his two sons (ages 27 and 25) have risked their lives to escape from North Korea. They are now in Yanji, waiting for us to help them make it the rest of the way to South Korea.
Heavyweight International Groups Getting Involved
The story of the 9 young orphans summarily shipped back to North Korea by the Lao government has captured the world’s attention and stirred strong emotions around the globe.
Amnesty International has issued an “Urgent Action” document as a call for the world community to take a firm stand against the reckless behavior of the Lao government.
These 9 Orphans Are Only the Latest Outrage
Since 1998, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), a Japanese NGO based in Tokyo, has been engaged in the rescue of North Korean refugees suffering from tragic conditions in China and some Southeast Asian countries.
Reported by Dong-A Ilbo (May 31, 2013):
News outlet Dong-A Ilbo interviewed the pastor who guided the nine North Korean defector orphans during their attempted escape from China to Laos.
We wanted to leave the Lao immigration center because something felt wrong, but the South Korean embassy told us “Stay”
Sent Back by Lao Officials
Back in December 2011, a total of 15 defector youths, all of whom had once been Kot-jebi (homeless street kids), got together for a Christmas party in a hidden shelter in Dandong, China. Most look happy in the photo, but just a year and a half later, their fates have split between heaven and hell.
By LFNKR local staff member in China
A group of typical students study at one of our foster care shelters in China. The shelter is situated near the North Korean border. It is true that the North Korean government provides facilities in each province to accommodate Kot-jebi (homeless street children). However, since the facilities are chronically short of food, many children, driven by hunger, run away to seek food on their own.
Italian Mediaset TGCOM24 Seeks Answers
Last month, a major Italian news outlet, Mediaset TGCOM24, contacted LFNKR, requesting an interview with one NK defector (37 years old) who is now resettled in Japan. LFNKR arranged the interview with the defector, whom LFNKR had helped to safely reach and resettle in Tokyo.
Escapee Shin Don-hyuk talks about prison
CNN, in a taped interview, talked with escaped North Korean work camp prisoner, Shin Dong-hyuk. Shin’s life began in near-hopeless circumstances in a NK prison camp. His parents, already interned there, were allowed a “reward marriage” for obedient behavior, but that didn’t last. Shin tells how, at age 14, he witnessed his mother and brother being executed. View part of the interview here.
Groups Present a United Front
LFNKR hosted on May 7, 2013 a press conference in the Diet Members’ Building in Tokyo, which was attended by representatives from several other NGOs also engaged in the North Korea human rights issue. The event was covered by journalists from NHK, Kyodo News, Mainichi Newspapers, One Korea Daily News, Mindan (Korean Residents Union in Japan) Newspaper, and The Wall Street Journal.
The efforts of LFNKR, as a member of the ICNK (International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea), have helped lead to establishment of a Commission of Inquiry (COI), which is now ready to begin its investigation. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution establishing on March 21, 2013 a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate the grievous human rights violations in North Korea and to determine whether those violations amount to crimes against humanity.
Warning: Extremely Graphic Scenes of Violence
YouTube footage showing scenes from the book about Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So (NK Death Camp) can be viewed at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vasmLxi_2Ew The eight-and-a-half minute, un-narrated video shows scenes of such brutality that only those with strong stomachs should watch what is being done to North Koreans every day.
Many Stories of Wanton Cruelty
Last month, LFNKR published the Japanese-language version of the book ‘Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So’ for release in Japan. This book contains facts, information and stories from interviews with 8,934 North Korean defectors, including 81 who had been detained at Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So, more commonly known as the “Death Camp”. Many of the stories include horrifying colored sketches drawn by a few of the former detainees at the Death Camp.
Will Pay up to 2,000 Yuan per 5 Captured
NKFC (North Korea Freedom Coalition) members, including LFNKR, have recently received information about the on-going crackdown by Chinese authorities. See a PDF copy of the Chinese language document, along with English and Korean translations.Chinese authorities recently released a police order along the NK-China border which sets specific prices for any criminal escapees (North Korean refugees) trying to get away from the starvation and madness so rampant in their own country.
First Language Skills, Now Nursing
This 29-year-old North Korean young lady only reached Japan four years ago. She immediately began attending night classes at a local junior high, and then moved on to high school, while also working part-time jobs to support herself.
Message from Sumi’s mother
Twelve months after my husband and I escaped from North Korea, we finally reached Japan. That was two years ago.
I became pregnant soon after we settled in Japan, and our daughter was born on Dec. 13, 2012. Before she was born, the LFNKR people, who have kindly been encouraging us since we left our own country, thought about what name we should give our baby. They came up with the name, Sumi, which of course means excellent and beautiful.
Joint Protest Held in Tokyo
North Korea conducted yet another nuclear test blast on Feb. 12. The North Korean regime is obviously escalating its clear threat to international peace and security. In response, on Feb. 13, LFNKR joined other Japanese NGOs that have an interest in North Korean human rights issues in public protests against the nuclear test. The protest was held in front of the Tokyo Headquarters of The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. The General Association functions as North Korea’s de facto embassy in Japan.
ICNK lauds Japan’s firm stance
In a public statement yesterday, ICNK (The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea), a group of more than 40 leading human rights organizations and activists, welcomed Japan’s strong position in favor of establishing a new United Nations commission of inquiry on serious human rights violations committed by the North Korean Government at home and abroad.
She Says this Website Started it All
Yesterday we received a warm and inspiring email from a lady, Mrs. Linda Dye, in the US, who read a story on this website back in 2007 and did something unusual. She and her husband decided they wanted to do more than just read about North Korean Refugees. They were so inspired, they made up their minds to get personally involved and make a difference.
Author, Blaine Harden (Viking Press)
Review by David Calleja
Escape From Camp 14 begins with a statement by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the official mouthpiece of North Korea’s regime. It reads, ‘There is no “human rights issue” in this country, as everyone leads the most dignified and happy life’. According to the government then, Shin Dong-hyuk’s astounding memoirs of survival in the country’s most notorious political prison read as little more than a fairytale.
Squandering National Resources
This organization, (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) strongly protests the missile-launching test that North Korea carried out on Dec. 12, 2012. According to reports, this launch was yet another test of banned ballistic missile technology.
Even Ally China Disapproves
An important human rights committee at the United Nations passed a resolution that condemned the human rights record of North Korea. Also receiving bad marks were Iran and Syria. This year’s vote on North Korea was passed by consensus, and for the first time ever, China, North Korea’s long-time ally, voted in favor.
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.
North Korea’s Infamous Prison Camp 22
A special report titled “North Korea’s Camp No. 22“ was released last week by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), a non-governmental organization based in Washington, D.C. The report was compiled in collaboration with DigitalGlobe (NYSE: DGI), a leading global provider of high-resolution earth imagery solutions.
2012 Brings Hwanghae’s Worst Drought in 60 Years
Field Report: 10,000 Expected to Starve
Information coming in from LFNKR’s grass-roots network in North Korea indicates that the drought and starvation are seriously affecting South Hwanghae Province. The drought advancing on the granaries of North Korea is wreaking havoc on the harvest, and threatening widespread starvation.
Notified by email
To help assure that the two North Korean orphans suffering from tuberculosis will immediately receive all necessary health care, LFNKR emailed the following message to the South Korean Embassy in Bangkok on Aug. 7, 2012.
Boy & Girl Suffering from Tuberculosis
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) is currently caring for a number of North Korean orphans living in the caves of Chanbai Mountain in China’s Jilin Province. Recently LFNKR received a report from our local staff that two of these North Korean orphans are suffering from Tuberculosis.
Cherry-Blossom Party with NK Defectors
On April 8, under a flawless blue sky, LFNKR members gathered at Shinjuku Park, one of the famous cherry-blossom viewing spots in Tokyo, to enjoy an “Ohanami” party under hundreds of cherry trees, all in full bloom. The Ohanami is a Japanese tradition for enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms. Joining the party were many North Korean defectors whom LFNKR has helped and supported in their resettlement in Japan.
LFNKR recently received a letter from a homeless child (Kot-jebi) forwarded by a Christian-based NGO in South Korea. The letter was written by a 13-year-old Kot-jebi, who lost his feet due to frostbite aggravated by severe burns. Mr. Kim, a Korean NGO director, has been working with Korean missionaries and local Korean-Chinese to support North Korean defectors and Kot-jebi, homeless children. LFNKR has decided to join them to help strengthen their local activities.
LFNKR, working jointly with several South Korean NGOs, launched last month 20 large balloons into the skies above North Korea to carry 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of Choco Pies, along with a total of 3,000 leaflets. The site chosen for launching the balloons was Ganghwa Island, a site very close to NK. The island is located in the estuary of the Han River, on the west coast of South Korea.
Just three years after arriving in Japan, I have passed Level 1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, so I decided to write about my experience in the hope that it might encourage others.
When I arrived at Narita airport, I finally met the person who had worked so hard to get me to Japan. The first words he said to me were, “Why did you want to come to Japan?”. At the time, I could only manage simple greetings in Japanese, and although I could vaguely understand what he was saying, I could not reply in his language.
The 9th annual North Korea Freedom Week starts this Sunday in Seoul, while a simultaneous NK Freedom Week event will also be held in London. Many of the events in Seoul are being led by North Korean defectors who had participated in the NKFW during the first six years it was held in Washington, D.C.