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.

2 Tons of Rice Distributed to Poor in Hamgyong

This report is by Kim Hong-son, one of LFNKR’s local staff members. He writes:

In February of this year, I passed through the Chinese customs office at Kosong and headed for North Korean customs. Passing through Chinese customs took a mere 30 minutes, but on the North Korean side it took over three hours. The reason for this is the North Korean customs inspection process, which begins with a verification of relatives living in North Korea, and involves a full-body search in addition to an inspection of the goods being brought into the country.

Report from a Refugee Who Made It Back

No One Said Fitting into Japanese Society Would Be Easy

Mr. Park went to North Korea with his family when he was four years old. The family went to Onson County in North Hamgyong Province, where they were assigned to a coal mining operation. Then, in 1999, he fled to China to escape the food shortages and starvation that had plagued the country throughout the 1990s. Park found, however, that life in China was very hard due to his illegal status. One employer made off with Park’s wages, leaving him without a single yuan and in despair. 

International Protest Slated for April 28, 2007

To Save North Korean Refugees

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) urges each person reading this to take part in the International Protest against China’s Violent Treatment of North Korean Refugees. This Protest, led by NORTH KOREA FREEDOM COALITION, is scheduled to be held all around the World on April 28. North Korean refugees who escape into China seeking food and freedom immediately encounter a new problem – the constant fear of arrest and repatriation by Chinese authorities.

Letter of Appeal to Prime Minister of Thailand

Protest of Extreme Overcrowded Conditions
Letter from LFNKR to the Prime Minister of Thailand.


26 April, 2007

Dear General Surayud Chulanont:

We, at Life Funds for North Korean Refugees(LFNKR), wish to convey our profoundest gratitude and respect to the people and Government of Thailand for humanitarian assistance extended to the North Korean defectors in Thailand in past years.

3 Orphans Freed

North Korean Orphans Walk Out of Jail

April 24th, 2:30 pm Laos time, the 3 North Korean orphans were released from the jail in Vientiane, Laos, and the consul accompanied them to the South Korean embassy in Laos. They appear to be out of danger of repatriation now that they are under the protection of the South Korean embassy.

We will give you more information as details become available. We at LFNKR wish to thank everyone for their wonderful generosity and kindness of spirit on behalf of these 3 children.

CNN Looks Inside a North Korean Escape Route

In exclusive footage aired April 15, 2007, CNN’s Dan Rivers gave viewers a look inside an ‘underground railroad’ used by North Koreans hoping to escape to South Korea.
This link takes you to a CNN video.

North Korea Freedom Week Slated for US Capital this April

From Suzanne Scholte, North Korean Freedom Coalition

Below is a list of the public events being held the week of April 22-29 to promote the freedom, human rights and dignity of the North Korean people. At the bottom of this page you will also find an invitation to Defense Forum Foundation’s Forum on Capitol Hill with North Korean Defectors on Friday, April 27. North Korea Freedom Week is just a few days away! Please help us promote attendance at these events by spreading the word. 

3 NK Orphans’ Letters Released to News Media

North Korean Orphans Plead for Help

The three letters quoted below were written by three desperate North Korean children who are now in the Vientiane Jail in Laos. They are very aware of the risk of repatriation back to North Korea. The letters show their anger and their confusion over the situation but at the same time, reveal how desperate they are with their appeal for help.

Former NK Orphan Sends Thanks Email in English

Hungry to Learn

LFNKR members were excited to receive a series of emails in English from one of our former foster children, a North Korean orphan whom we sheltered in China, then helped escape to safety in South Korea. The young man, Chol Song Kim, was born 5 Feb. 1985. Although Chol Song received the bare minimum of education during his years of hiding, now that he is safe in South Korea, he is eagerly making up for lost time. He recently went to Australia for a short, intensive English course.

Abandoned Children in China

Many Problems Confront Children of North Korean Mothers and Chinese Fathers

The international community has grown uncomfortably aware, over the past decade, of the many problems confronting North Korean defectors. The most urgent of these include capture by Chinese police and forced repatriation, as well as the need to find a way to a safe third country such as South Korea for resettlement.

International Fact-finding Mission to Thailand

Memorial shot together with Maisai Immigration vice director and members of Fact Finding Mission in front of Maisai Immigration Police Building.

Memorial shot together with Maisai Immigration vice director and members of Fact Finding Mission in front of Maisai Immigration Police Building.

From February 25 to March 1 of this year, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees was part of an international fact-finding mission to Thailand, the purpose of which was to ascertain the current situation of North Korean refugees in Thailand. To this end, we met with the Bangkok office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the immigration police at Maesai (near the Laos/Thai/Myanmar border), and Thai human rights lawyers, as well as North Korean defectors and some of the activists assisting them in Thailand.

LFNKR Expands its NK Food Supply Network

Made Possible by 300,000 Yen in Donations

The operation to distribute emergency supplies in Hamgyong-bukto, North Korea was a success. Through one of our clandestine local networks, we were able to provide extremely needy people with a total of one ton of rice, as well as clothing and antibiotics. The value of all items supplied equaled 300,000 yen (about US$2,500). The extra supplies were financed by recent donations. Late November of last year, five members of LFNKR’s local group JYO entered Hoeryong-si, North Korea from China, carrying several boxes filled with winter clothing, antibiotics and penicillin.

LFNKR Exhibits at NGO Festival in Osaka

LFNKR booth at One World Festival

LFNKR’s Booth at One World Festival

More than 100 NGOs and NPOs in Japan joined the One World Festival held for two days at Osaka International Communications Center (Feb. 3rd and 4th). Many groups participated in the event under the theme “Bringing the world closer through education, interaction and mutual assistance.” The groups are working to help resolve today’s global issues of environmental destruction, poverty, repression of human rights, ethnic conflict, and refugees. Approximately 12,600 guests visited the exhibition during the 2-day event.

Photos from International Symposium in Tokyo

Speakers included LFNKR's Kato Hiroshi (right) and beside him, Diet member Masaharu Nakagawa.

Speakers included LFNKR’s Kato Hiroshi (right) and beside him, Diet member Masaharu Nakagawa

During the International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights held in Tokyo December 10th through 16th, our organization, LFNKR, hosted two of the events.

Choi Yong-hun Home from Chinese Prison

Friends greet Choi at airport

Friends greet Choi at airport

Following 3 years and 10 months of Chinese “hospitality”, Choi Yong-hun is back home in South Korea, reunited with his family.

International Protest Day – Sample Letter

Citizens Worldwide Mail Protests

This coming winter, the number of starving North Korean refugees escaping into China is expected to increase, particularly in light of the major flooding in North Korea.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government continues to hunt down and repatriate North Korean refugees, while also arresting humanitarian aid workers. We must persist in our protests against Chinese government actions in order to save the starving North Korean refugees.

December 2 has been set as a day for simultaneous worldwide protest. Here in Japan, LFNKR and other groups involved in the rescue of North Korean refugees will stage a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in this country.

You can join us by sending protest email to the Chinese embassy in your country.

Here is a list of embassy addresses.

And below is a sample letter you can use as a guideline when writing your own letter.


 

Sample Letter:

Dear President Hu Jintao,

Please immediately stop arresting and repatriating North Korean refugees.

On Dec. 2, many citizens’ groups in Europe, the USA, South Korea, and Japan are simultaneously doing joint protests in front of Chinese embassies in their countries. The purpose that we share, which surpasses race, religion, and ideology, is to help the lives and human rights of the people seeking to escape from starvation and oppression in North Korea.

It is widely known that yearly tens of thousands of North Korean defectors have escaped into China for more than a decade. The Chinese government, however, has ignored the voices of the international community urging your government to immediately stop repatriating North Korean refugees and to cease arresting the aid workers who try to help them.

It is also widely known that a staggering number of North Korean women are victims of human trafficking in China and that even when they marry Chinese men and bear children, most of them are still arrested and sent back to North Korea. The children born of these marriages often remain without nationality and are therefore denied an education. Your government continues mercilessly depriving those innocent children of their mothers and of their basic human rights.

These are not only inhumane acts, they violate the Refugees Convention to which your country is signatory. This fact seriously dishonors China in the international community.

I urge the Chinese government to:

  1. immediately stop arresting, detaining or repatriating North Korean refugees and duly to protect them in your country under the supervision of UNHCR or other related international organization, and to assure them safe passage to third countries if they wish to leave.
  2. immediately free the currently detained North Korean refugees and humanitarian aid workers, and
  3. grant Chinese nationality to North Korean defectors who marry Chinese citizens as well as to their children, and allow them to settle in China.

(Your name)

 

 

NEWS FLASH: Choi Yong-hun Released Today

Jailed in China for 3 years, 10 months

BREAKING NEWS: Choi Yong-hun, the South Korean humanitarian aid worker imprisoned by China for nearly 4 years left prison today and flew back home to South Korea. Choi was met at Incheon Airport this evening by close family members. And although he appears extremely weak following his imprisonment, he took the time to express his thanks to all those around the world who have supported him with their prayers, letters and other contributions.

International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights

Public Awareness Week

In June 2006, the North Korean Human Rights Law was established in Japan. This law specifies December 10-16 as the North Korean Human Rights Week and resolves that both governmental and regional institutions shall put forth efforts to increase public awareness of human rights violations by North Korea.

Chinese Border Guards Videotaped Shooting Religious Pilgrims

China Still Violating Basic Human Rights

As a citizen’s group deeply involved in human rights, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) has long called for more rapid improvement of human rights in China.

At the end of September, for example, Chinese border guards were videotaped firing upon a group of Tibetan pilgrims, including nuns and juvenile priests. At least two of the pilgrims were killed, prompting growing criticism of China by the international community.

Open Letter to Ban Ki-moon

Faxed to ROK Permanent Mission at United Nations


October 19, 2006

His Excellency Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretary General-Designate and
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Republic of Korea
c/o The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations
335 East 45th Street
New York, New York 10017

Dear Foreign Minister Ban:

We, the undersigned, are gravely concerned for the human rights of the North Korean people, and we have also been following the news of your selection to be the next United Nations Secretary General with great interest. Allegations that the North Korean government has engaged in large-scale crimes against humanity will be among the U.N.’s great moral challenges in the coming years, and the institution’s moral authority will depend on how it responds to those challenges.

Family of Jailed Humanitarian Worker Struggling

Kim Bong-soon, wife of jailed humanitarian aid worker Choi Jong-hun

Kim Bong Soon’s Letter

Hello, I am Kim Bong Soon, the wife of Choi Yong-hun.

My husband was arrested by the Chinese police in January 2003 for helping North Korean refugees and was sent to prison for 5 years. Today, he remains confined in the Weifang Prison, Shandong Province, China after serving 46 months of a 60-month sentence. He suffers from worsening chronic diabetes, hypertension, and asthma because of the poor living conditions in the prison.

Home Medical Kits for NK Refugees

Current Activities:

While the rest of the world’s attention is riveted on North Korea and its claims of a successful nuclear test, LFNKR would like to point again to the many North Korean refugees and their continuing need for help.

LFNKR, since its founding in 1998, has provided North Korean refugees with aid, specifically distributing food and clothing through local staff. For more information about LFNKR’s activities during 2006 and its plans for 2007, see these pages:

LFNKR Action Plan for FY 2006-2007

Overview

Last year, a single charter flight from Vietnam carried 460 North Koreans into South Korea. This case had a strong impact on the international community and spotlighted North Korea’s human rights problems. It remains to be seen, however, what lessons it has taught the South Korean government, which fears a similar incident occurring in Thailand.

Suji’s Letter to Her Father

Choi Yong-hun with his two daughters

From the Daughter of a Jailed Humanitarian

Hi, I am Suji, the eldest daughter of Choi Yong-hun.

On the first of November 2002, our family of four moved to China, where my younger sister and I began settling in to our new life there. We started school in January 2003. But just two months after our move to China, our father was arrested by the Chinese police for attempting to help some North Korean refugees. I had trouble believing he had been arrested since the media were reporting that he had been helping a group of refugees from North Korea.

LFNKR Activity Report – FY 2005-2006

Annual Report 2006

Activity Report – Fiscal Year 2005-2006  

Pressure on the North Korean government by the international community is increasing thanks to greater international awareness of the grave human rights abuses committed by the North Korean government, in addition to the refugee and abductee issues.

Joint Appeal Sent to UNHCR on 7 in Thailand

7 NK Refugees in Thailand Awaiting UNHCR Action

The following appeal was sent to the High Commissioner today jointly by our group (LFNKR) and Tim Peters’ Helping Hands Korea NGO.


 

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Geneva, Switzerland

20 September, 2006

As you probably have been informed, seven North Korean refugees, all women, have presented themselves to the police authorities in Nong Khai, a border town in Northern Thailand, at 09:00 hrs. Monday, 18 September in accordance with Article 31 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which prohibits, among other things, the imposition of penalties on refugees based on their illegal entry to a third country.

Joint Appeal to Thailand

175 NK Refugees Still Need Help

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) has jointly submitted the following Appeal to the Immigration Authorities of Thailand.

We urge you to send another letter to the Thai Ambassador in your country requesting that these refugees be safely released to South Korea or other country where they will be safe from repatriation to North Korea.

175 NK Refugees in Thai Custody

You Can Help – Mail a Letter

The Thai government is negotiating with the United Nations and the South Korean government after Thai police followed a tip and found 175 North Koreans at a house in Bangkok. Following a tip-off by the neighbors, the Thai police raided a house on August 22, 2006, where they found 128 women, 37 men and 10 children, all North Koreans. The refugees were being sheltered while seeking asylum in other countries, including South Korea. 

Summer Clothes Are Survival Gear

The Right Clothes Make a Person Invisible

For North Korean refugees hiding in China, the wrong clothes can mean arrest, repatriation and hard prison time. That is why their aim is to blend in, look like the Chinese locals, and escape notice. When warmer weather comes, if they are seen still wearing winter clothing, the Chinese police notice it immediately. Being noticed by the police automatically means arrest for them, followed quickly by forcible return to North Korea where harsh punishment awaits them.

Wife Reports on Imprisoned NK Refugee Aid Worker

No Early Release in Sight

Even though the United States recently accepted 6 North Korean refugees, marking a dramatic change in the situation of North Korean refugees, nothing has changed for Choi Yong-hun, the South Korean Humanitarian aid worker. He still sits in a jail cell in China, after having served 3 years and 4 months of a 5-year sentence. He is still being punished for his attempt to help North Korean refugees in China.

4 NGO Members Named in NK Arrest Warrants

Two LFNKR Members on the List

Japanese news media are reporting that North Korea has issued arrest warrants for four Japanese NGO workers. The men have reportedly been named as suspects in the abduction of North Korean citizens. The North Korean Ministry of People’s Security, announced on 27 March 2006 the issue of arrest warrants and notified the Japanese government via diplomatic channels, demanding that the four be handed over to North Korean custody.

World to Pray for North Korea

International Groups Join Hands

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has begun an initiative calling for a Global Week of Prayer for North Korea. The Prayer Week will run from June 19 ~ 25, 2006 and is an international effort that has attracted the support of many agencies and churches. 

North Korea Calls Japanese NGOs Kidnappers

NGO Members Accused of Abduction

The people of Japan were amazed February 7 when television and newspapers announced that North Korea had accused Kato Hiroshi and 6 other Japanese NGO members of abducting North Korea citizens. Kato is Secretary-General of our NGO, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR). The accusations came during the 3-day bilateral talks with Japan that, it was hoped, would help to resolve the ongoing dispute over Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents during the last three decades. The talks were held in Beijing.

No Mercy, No Justice for NK Mothers and Children

Mother of 5-year-old Repatriated to North Korea

In February, 2006, the mother of 5-year-old Kim Yong-soon was arrested and repatriated to North Korea. Six years ago, the mother, a young North Korean woman who had fled the country of her birth, was sold into a forced marriage to a Chinese man. She quickly became pregnant and gave birth to daughter Kim Yong-soon. This daughter, Yong-soon is being supported under LFNKR’s foster parent program. 

Third Annual NK Freedom Week in Washington DC

 April 22nd through 30th 2006 in Washington DC

The North Korea Freedom Coalition has organized an impressive list of activities for the week of April 22 through April 30 to express public support for the North Korean people suffering under the repressive regime of Kim Jong Il.

Interview with NK Border Shelter Staff Members

Human Trafficking and Starvation

Recently an LFNKR staff member visited some of the shelters in China being run clandestinely by this NGO. The following interview with a few local staffers working at one of the shelters brings us information about the recent food situation in North Korea and the victims of human trafficking.

In the interview, “LFNKR” indicates one of our people dispatched from Japan who interviewed “Local staffers,” who are the people actually caring for North Korean refugees and orphans living in our shelters in China.

Border Report – January 2006

Winter street in Yanji, China

Women Sold, Babies often Abandoned

The following report is by an LFNKR staff member who visited the border area of North Korea and China in January 2006. The Tumen River running along the border was completely frozen. Standing on the riverside on the China side we could see Namyang, North Hamgyong on the other side, in North Korea. There were lookout posts about every 100 meters. Clearly, the crackdown on North Koreans attempting to escape into China has been stepped up even further.

Refugee Rescue Activities – 2005

Report Submitted by By Kato Hiroshi, Secretary-General, LFNKR

Here is the script of the speech I presented at the second International Conference on NK Human Rights “The Seoul Summit, Promoting Human Rights in North Korea,” held on Dec. 8-10, 2005 at the Shilla Hotel in Seoul, Korea.

Report – What We Did in Fiscal Year 2005

Sept. 2004 to Aug. 2005

On Oct. 9, 2005, LFNKR held its annual General Meeting in Tokyo. 

Kato Hiroshi addresses members at LFNKR General Meeting

Kato Hiroshi addresses members at LFNKR General Meeting

Video Reveals Prisoner Beating

Guard beats female prisoner

Guard beats female prisoner

On September 25, Free North Korea Broadcasting, a South Korean NGO, released footage of a female North Korean defector being beaten and kicked during interrogation on Aug. 17 at a guard post on the China-Korean border. The footage was widely reported by the media the next day, including newspapers and television broadcasters in Japan and South Korea.

Joint NGO-Lawmaker Conference on NK Refugees

Three Days in Tokyo:  July 30 ~ August 1, 2005

The Conference, which drew NGOs and activists from around the world, began with two days of presentations and information on North Korean refugees, abductees and humanitarian aid workers detained in China. The conference culminated on the third day with The Second General Meeting of International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights (IPCNKR).

UN Working Group Calls Arrest Arbitrary

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a report on May 27, 2005 calling China’s detention of Choi Yong Hun “arbitrary.” This term means he is in prison without just cause. Further, his detention is “in contravention of the provisions of article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” according to the report, and the Group called upon China to rectify the situation.

Former Foster Children Tell How They Became Orphans

Grace Yoon, whose father was arrested by the Chinese authorities on May 9, 2005 while attempting to help North Korean refugees, addressed the group.

Photos of the 3-Day Conference

Grace Yoon, whose father was arrested by the Chinese authorities on May 9, 2005 while attempting to help North Korean refugees, addressed the group.

Daughter Pleads for Help Freeing Her Father

Grace Yoon works to free her father, Reverend Phillip J. Buck

Minister Held in Chinese Prison

Hello, my name is Grace Eunhae Yoon and I am from Seattle, Washington, United States.

It is my honor to be here and I am very thankful for this opportunity to introduce my father to you. I thank Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, its staffs, and Kato Hiroshi San for their support and assistance in every possible way during this conference.

In-Depth Overview of NK Refugee Issues

Tim Peters of Helping Hands Korea addresses a Joint Session of NGOs and Lawmakers from 4 Nations

Tim Peters, Founder, Helping Hands Korea

I am very honored to address this joint conference that brings together a wide range of NGO’s and the Inter-Parliamentarian Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights that includes distinguished representatives of Japan’s House of Councilors and House of Representatives, U.S. Congressmen, the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, representatives of the State Great Hural (Parliament) of Mongolia and the Parliament of New Zealand. 

Film “Seoul Train” Screened

Film maker Jim Butterworth speaks about North Korean refugees

Jim Butterworth’s Documentary of Conscience

Thank you very much. First, I would like to thank the IPCNKR for this opportunity to show “Seoul Train” here today, but especially for your outstanding efforts to improve the human rights of North Koreans. It is indeed an honor to be here before such an esteemed audience and alongside other speakers that are truly heroes in this cause.

NK Refugees Being Overlooked

Refugees Overshadowed by 6-Party Talks

The Six-Party talks in Beijing to discuss the elimination of nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula are dangerously close to overshadowing the struggles of five North Korean refugees, whose stories are being dwarfed and in danger of being forgotten. On July 27th, LFNKR received information regarding five North Koreans now seeking to be declared refugees. 

China Tries to Stifle Award-Winning Documentary

Director Reveals Secret Censorship Moves by Chinese Government

If China had its way, the documentary film ‘Seoul Train,’  would never be seen at a single international film festival.

Director-producer Jim Butterworth revealed recently that several festival producers had contacted him quietly with news that Chinese embassies were applying pressure to discourage showing of the Seoul Train documentary. The film reveals China’s role in sending North Korean refugees back to face punishment and even execution, and this exposure apparently displeases Chinese authorities.

Joint Assembly of International Lawmakers, NGOs

More Crackdowns in China

The Chinese government continues to intensify its crackdown on North Korean refugees, with an eye to eliminating them before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Meanwhile, the South Korean government, the first you would expect to protect North Korean refugees, appears increasingly reluctant to accept them.

New Book: A Long Way to Freedom

Book - Long Way to Freedom

A Long Way to Freedom is the story of one refugee family’s harrowing journey to safety, from a daring escape out of their own country, North Korea, to years of surviving their way over half a continent.

This is a tale of bravery, great fortune, and also terrible failures and defeat. It is an epic adventure of love, violence, danger, true friendship, and betrayal. But it ultimately ends in success, and a hard earned victory over unbelievable odds.

A Long Way to Freedom  –  (297 pages, Paperback or PDF)
By Douglas Comish