Three orphans being held in a jail in Laos

These three orphans managed to escape from North Korea, make their way through China, and were then arrested by Lao police. Here, they await processing before release to South Korean authorities.

Two foster children play in one of our shelters

These two orphans can finally relax and enjoy being off the streets and receiving an education. Each LFNKR member may sponsor an orphan or abandoned child being cared for in one or another of our shelters, sending financial help, encouragement and support.

A traditonal cherry blossom viewing party

North Korean refugees, now resettled in Japan, get together with LFNKR members to celebrate the coming of cherry blossoms and the first hint of spring in Tokyo.

Tokyo Bar Association Recognizes LFNKR

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees was awarded the Human Rights Prize by the Tokyo Bar Association

Former North Korean refugees wed

A refugee couple, one a former foster child and the other a recent defector from North Korea, have married. They invited Mr Kato and Ms Watanabe of LFNKR to stand in as parents.

13 year-old street child with severe burns

LFNKR, working jointly with a South Korean NGO, helped this kot-jebi (street child) receive urgently needed medical treatment after he lost both feet to the combined effects of frostbite and severe burns.

Satellite Photos of NK Prison Camp

NK Camp 22 Report

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.

10,000 Expected to Starve in NK Drought

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.

South Korean Embassy in Bangkok Told of Orphans

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.

Two Orphans Require Rescue

 

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 Viewing Party in Tokyo

The cherry blossom viewing party in Shinjuku

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.

NK Orphan Needs Artificial Feet

Chong Il-guang's feet were frostbitten then burned severely

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. 

Flying Snack Cakes for Freedom

Choco Pies Fly Free

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.

NK Refugee Passes 1st Level Language Exam

 

Level 1 text for Studying Japanese

Level 1 text for Studying Japanese

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.

9th Annual NK Freedom Week Starts Sunday in Seoul

 

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.

3000 NK Prisoners Granted Amnesty

 

News Leaks from North Korea

To celebrate the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s first leader, a general amnesty has been declared, and 3,740 prisoners released. Although a few political prisoners were reportedly included, no specific number or names have been disclosed.

NK Defectors Tell About Death Camp 12

Crane torture

Camp 12 Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So

On February 5, LFNKR hosted a seminar during One World Festival, an annual event held in Osaka, Japan. For the seminar this year, LFNKR invited Mr. Sung-hun Kim, the chief of Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB) and three North Korean defectors who have resettled in South Korea.  Each of the three defectors has experienced the nightmare of North Korea’s Camp 12 Chongo-ri Kyo Hwa So, a camp well known for its high death rate.

NK to Launch a Rocket Soon

Gwangmyunsung-3 Missile

Since its founding in 1998, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), a Japanese citizen’s group, has devoted itself to supplying food, clothing, and medical goods directly to starving North Korean people.

After nearly 14 years of continuing efforts, we still see no improvement in the food shortage, nor a reduction in human rights violations in North Korea. The outflow of people desperate enough to flee their fatherland for other countries has not abated.

China’s Yanbian Province Changing

Winter scene in Yanbian

LFNKR Staff Member Visits Yanbian, China

For the first time in more than ten years, I visited China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Recently, China has undergone remarkable economic development, and its impact has reached even China’s northeastern region of Yanbian. From my previous visit, I recall low-rise buildings scattered about and old Soviet-made cars on dilapidated roads.

Petition Begun for Rescuing NK Refugees

 

Refugees Need Immediate Help

Since Feb. 8, more than 30 North Korean refugees have reportedly been arrested and held by Chinese police in Shenyang, Yanji and Changchun. Most of these refugees wish to go to South Korea where their family members have resettled.  One of them, a teenage boy, has siblings in South Korea but no other family members in North Korea. 

New Propaganda Boosting Kim-Jong-un

 

Onsong, North Korea – Feb. 16, 2012

To mark the celebration of Kim Jong-il’s birthday this year, one bottle of distilled spirits and one cake of soap were distributed to every household in Onsong county. In other counties or cities, the quantities and items reportedly varied. North Korean citizens have begun saying of Kim Jong-un that “another Kim Il-sung (his grandfather) is born.”

Sending in the Choco Pies

North Koreans want Choco Pies

Help Send Choco Pies of Love for Valentine’s Day

Choco pies have become the most famous snacks among North Korean workers in Kaeson Industrial Park (see details below), but outside this one limited area, the rest of North Korea has little idea of the everyday luxuries available to the rest of the world.

NK People Uncertain Over New Leader’s Status

  

Kim Jong-un Depends on Regency of Chang Sung-taek

People in Onsong are saying that the recent conditions in North Korea remind them of the “Arduous March” back in the late 1970s.  There was a serious shortage of food then too. On Jan. 23, which is New Year’s day on the old calendar, the People’s Committee of Onsong County issued an order to distribute one 450-ml bottle of Shochu (distilled 20% proof spirits) per household.  Some troops received food rations on Jan. 2.

LFNKR Foster Education Scholarships Up

 

Foster Parent Program

In early August of 2011, scholarships for the new fiscal year were awarded to our foster education children. And we were able to add one new child to those receiving scholarships for a total of 20 recipients. This latest child is a boy born in 2004. Like so many so-called “shadow children,” his mother is a North Korean defector, and his father is ethnic Han Chinese.

New Book, ‘Why Peace’, Offers 77 Ways to Peace

Now book 'Why Peace' by Noguchi Takayuki

Noguchi Takayuki, one of the directors of this organization, has contributed a story about North Korean refugees, peace in East Asia and his experiences in a Chinese prison to a newly released book titled “Why Peace” (editor Marc Guttman). The book, published on January 1, 2012, suggests a wide variety of ideas for achieving a more harmonious, prosperous, fair and tolerant world based upon peaceful interaction.

Food Prices Still Unstable in NK

January Market Prices in DPRK

Prices shown in this chart were gathered in our own privately conducted survey in Chongjin City, Onsong , Hamgyon Prov. and Hyesan Ryanggang Prov.

Outflow of NK Refugees Resumes

 

Burglaries Rise, Food Shortage Worsens

LFNKR received a seventh flash update on January 9 from a local staff member operating in China. According to his report, the outflow of NK refugees along the Tumen River, which had temporarily ceased, has begun again. Although border security remains strict following the period of mourning that marked the death of Kim Jong-il, a growing number of North Korean refugees are being seen in villages along the Tumen River.

North Korean Public Voicing Complaints

 

News Update from Inside NK

LFNKR received a further update on January 11 from a local staff member operating in North Korea. He reports that the public has begun openly speaking less reverently of the country’s leadership and especially the ruling Kim family itself. North Korea recently enforced a special security period, which ended January 10. During that period, Kim Jong-un, who serves as Supreme Commander of the People’s Army, visited and inspected a tank corps for the New Year.

Turning Kim Jong-un into the New Leader

 

Following the death of Kim Jong-il, authorities have further tightened their control over citizens.

Along the Tumen and Yalu Rivers, which run along the border between China and North Korea, every available radio tracking instrument is being brought to bear in a round-the-clock crackdown on cellular phones.

Rice Priced Out of Reach in NK

 

Price of rice skyrockets after Kim Jong-il dies

On Dec. 24th we received another call from one of our LFNKR staff members in the Rason Special Economic Zone in North Hamgyong. This member told us about the current food situation. The already tight food availability is worsening, which may result in many victims during the mourning period. In Rason, rice now costs 4,800 to 5,000 won per kilogram. However, the average monthly wage of a typical worker is only 2,000 to 3,000 won. Clearly, an entire kilogram of rice costs more than one worker can earn in a month. 

NK Execs at State-run Businesses also Cold, Hungry

 

On Dec. 24th, LFNKR’s Tokyo office received a fifth flash report from one of our local staff members in Rason Special Economic Zone in North Hamgyong. According to the report, at noon on the 24th, the only vehicles lined up to go through China’s Quanhe customs gate into North Korea were about 20 coal trucks bound for Rajin Port in North Korea from Heilongjiang, China.

Infighting Among Kim Jong-il Sons Expected

 

The LFNKR office has continued to receive intermittent calls from our local staff member in North Korea. Even though that country remains on high alert, the following report was received on the 23rd. People in the Onsong area of North Hamgyong have already begun discussing who will succeed Kim Jong-il. A common remark is that “Kim Jong-un is too young to run the country.”

North Korea Declares Martial Law after Kim Jong-il Dies

 

Security Clamp-down

At 16:00 on Dec. 21 (Japan time), our office received a flash report from a local LFNKR staff member stationed in North Hamgyong, North Korea. According to this report, martial law has been declared in the North Hamgyong area.

Mourn Not for Kim Jong-il

 

Mourn Instead for his Victims

On Dec. 28 in Pyongyang a funeral will be held for Kim Jong-il. As do most of those involved in the North Korean human rights issue, we at LFNKR strongly feel that this funeral should commemorate the victims of Kim Jong-il and his brutal regime. We call upon the world – mourn not for this dead dictator.

All Year-End Events Cancelled in NK

 

In the afternoon of Dec. 22, our office received another report from our local LFNKR staff member in North Korea. The authorities in that country are cracking down and tracking all cellular phone signals originating from made-in-China cell phones being used in North Korea. Thus, the conversation between the local staff member and our office was necessarily much shorter than usual.

LFNKR Annual Report Released for 2011

Introduction

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.

Food Prices Still on the Rise in NK

  

The chart below shows results of a pricing survey carried out independently by LFNKR local staff members in North Korea.

Classes Teach NK Refugees Language, Social Skills

North Korean Refugees Complete First Japanese Language Course

1. How the Course Came About

Currently, 200 North Korean refugees have settled in Japan, and this number continues to grow steadily. To help refugees merge more easily into Japanese society, it is essential to establish and promote various forms of aid, the most crucial being Japanese language training. Despite the need, this country’s government has, so far, developed no plan to aid North Korean refugees in their settlement. Consequently, such aid has only been provided on a small scale, and left solely to the initiative of private volunteer groups or the self-help efforts of the refugees themselves.

Korean Food Booth Helps Raise Funds

LFNKR launched a new effort - a Korean food booth - with menu items including a selection of the most popular Korean dishes

Korean Food Booth

Global Festival Japan was held at Tokyo’s Hibiya Park on Oct. 1st and 2nd, 2011. Festival sponsors included a number of Japanese government organizations, The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, and The National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan. Every year, more than 200 groups involved in a variety of issues join the Festival. Typically, these groups deal with human rights matters, child labor abuse, and poverty problems.

International Conference Gets Tough on NK

Download this ICNK Coalition Statement

On Sept. 8, some 40 human rights groups from 15 nations gathered in Tokyo to set up a nongovernmental organization called “The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity In North Korea” (ICNK). Four of LFNKR’s directors attended the conference.

One LFNKR Aid Center Closed Down

“I can no longer help defectors,” Mr. Kim told me.

For the past three years, he has worked with us, continually facing danger and difficulty as he has aided defectors. He is the person running JSH-01, one of five shelters situated along the Sino-Korean border. Recently, he has grown increasingly anxious as Chinese public safety and border defense units toughened their crackdown even further.

Rice Thieves Being Shot in NK

Rice, the staple food in NK, is in desperately short supply

The Proclamation of Penalties for Stealing Rice quoted below first appeared in the 2010 North Korean Human Rights White Paper, following its appearance that year in official Korean documents. Previously, the punishment for stealing grain had only been known from scattered defector testimony. Verification in the form of a proclamation from the North Korean security apparatus is a significant new development.

Current Consumer Prices in NK

 

North Korean Situation

It is believed that although virtually no one is currently dying of hunger in DPRK, many are bordering on the edge of starvation. Most people are managing to stay alive under the present circumstances, but of course it is impossible to predict what will happen in the future.

Toothbrushes to Tsunami Victims

North Korean defector donated 20,000 toothbrushes to tsunami victims

A North Korean defector couple have donated 20,000 toothbrushes to victims of the recent tsunami. When the Great Earthquake struck Eastern Japan on March 11, I was in an office in Osaka City. An office worker at a nearby desk suddenly cried, “Earthquake!” Another man who was there went outside to listen to his car radio. He shouted, “There’s a 6-meter tsunami warning!”

Nonstop television broadcasts showed unimaginable misery. The people who lived in the affected area must have grown up hearing about the dangers of tsunamis from the elderly… but I could not put those thoughts into words. Then, even after the tsunami seemed to be over, it struck a second time, and a third.

LFNKR Translates White Paper on NK Human Rights

  

LFNKR announces its translation into Japanese of the 410-page “White Paper on Human Rights” published by the Korea Institute for National Unification. This is the first time a Japanese version of the white paper has been available. The paper, originally published in the Korean language in 2010, is a detailed report on human rights issues in North Korea. We believe that the translated version will help more Japanese understand the human rights situation in North Korea.

NK Refugees Get Japanese Language Training center

Japanese Language Education Center for North Korean Immigrants in Japan

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) on June 29, 2011, opened Japan’s first Japanese Language Education Center for North Korean Immigrants. This has long been one of LFNKR’s dreams.

The first class includes seven North Korean students, with ages ranging from 35 to 62, and averaging 48 years old. Directors of the Center include Kato Hiroshi, executive director of LFNKR, plus a second director, and Tomoharu Ebihara, executive director of ARNKA (Association for the Rescue of North Korea Abductees, Chiangmai), who was instrumental in establishment of the Center.

Food Prices Rising in North Korea

Current Prices in DPRK

Price research conducted by Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Surveyed: Morning of June 12, 2011
Data Released: 13th June
Research in Onsong and Chonjin North Hamgyong Province

Food Price List for DPRK

Patients Dying from Lack of Basic Surgical Supplies in NK

Surgery Done without Anesthesia 

A local LFNKR staff member in North Korea in charge of medical support spoke with a Japanese surgeon recently. The surgeon said that even if a doctor is very good, there was no way to perform operations successfully without postoperative management or the required sterile instruments, disinfecting, antibiotics and transfusions. It was even stated that antibiotics might not be necessary after operations if wounds were uninfected, because these days operations are done in clean environments.

Hand Knitted Gifts for North Korean Refugees

  

Founding a supporting group

About a year ago, we briefly reported on a Ms. Warmheart, who hand-knits warm caps, scarfs and mittens for North Korean orphans. Since then, she has started a support group to encourage others to join this hand-knitting project of hers. The following is about one of the ladies in her group.

Winter Relief for the Starving

Here is just one shipment of rice ready for transport to NK.

We Can Help Only a Handful

Although thousands upon thousands in North Korea were without food, warm clothes or adequate shelter this past winter, we were able to provide relief for only a few hundred. By November of each year, our organization must secure the money needed to send shipments of winter clothing, medical kits and rice to some of the most needy people in North Korea through our local underground network. Thus, we are starting early to build up funds for next winter. According to some observers, conditions are likely to be even worse by then.

Paper Cranes for Japan’s Restoration

Read how folding paper cranes can help rebuild Japan

Empowering Our Youth

Ordinarily we don’t mention specific charities or fund raising groups, but this initiative involving students is so unique and delightful that we decided you’d probably want to hear about it. The 100,000 Paper Cranes to Rebuild Japan project was brought to our attention by a friend in the US.

Kato Answers Emails of Concern

In Answer to All Your Emails - From LFNKR's Kato Hiroshi
Since March 11, Japan has experienced an unprecedented series of catastrophic events. The emails pouring in to LFNKR from our friends both in Japan and abroad have been asking if we are safe, as well as offering encouragement and assistance. All of us at LFNKR deeply appreciate your concern and your kindness.

Young NK Refugees Thriving in Japan

Excelling in Japanese Language Studies

On February 15, LFNKR members were excited to hear that Hyun Ki* and Ae Sook* had received high level certificates in the national Japanese language certification exam, which they took back in December. Both are 26-year-old former North Korean refugees, and both reached Japan 3 years ago with the help of LFNKR.

11-Year-Old Former Refugee Plays Chopin

Child's hands playing Chopin

Entire Family Succeeding

One of LFNKR’s directors is Dr. W, a Zainichi (ethnic Korean resident of Japan). Recently he was invited to visit a former North Korean refugee family.  They are the first family that LFNKR ever helped resettle in Japan.  When they reached safety in Japan 11 years ago, their daughter was only one year old.  In the intervening years, Dr. W has witnessed this family’s hardship and their difficulties securing work in Japan.

Dog Boosts Donations at Rally

Dog Boosts Donations at Rally

Helpful Dog, Momoko, Plays Important Role in Fundraising

On Oct. 23, in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office, a large-scale rally was held in support of rescuing victims abducted by North Korea. Hosted by the metropolitan assembly legislator coalition and Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea (Japanese NGO), a rally for rescuing the victims abducted by North Korea was held on Oct. 23 at the square in front of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office.

LFNKR Annual Report Released

Introduction

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.