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Follow-up to Press Conference
on Boat People Arrested in China

31 of 62 Repatriated to North Korea

As a result of persistent efforts to track down the 62 people arrested in the January 2003 incident in Yantai, China, LFNKR (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) has gathered details on the boat people involved.

This information includes details on each of the persons involved in the incident and their present whereabouts. Below is a brief summary.

A total of 62 people were involved in the boat people plan. We have confirmed that 31 of them were repatriated to North Korea. Four avoided the mass arrest and are believed to be hiding in China. Eight are missing. Nine have reached the safety of South Korea through the aid of various NGOs.

The first group of people in the original plan to escape by boat included 10 North Korean refugees guided by Park Yong Chol left Yanji on Dec. 23; they arrived in Yantai on Dec. 26.

The second group included 9 North Korean refugees led by Choi Yong-hun (South Korean aid worker) and Seok Jae-hyun (South Korean journalist). They left on January 17, 2003, changed to a boat at Dalian and arrived in Yantai early on the morning of January 18.

The third group included 4 North Korean refugees. This group was led by the captain, Park Yong-chol. They left Dalian on January 17 by boat and arrived in Yantai at 3:00AM on January 18.

The second and third groups were arrested upon arrival at Yantai by the Chinese authorities.

The Chinese spokesman officially announced at the press conference on January 23 that China would not repatriate the detained North Korean people and would treat them humanely according to both domestic and international laws.

The truth, however, is different. China separated the arrested North Korean refugees into three batches, and secretly sent the first batch of 19 from Yantai to Dalian by boat at midnight of January 24, then from Dalian to Dandong by bus. On January 25, these 19 people were handed over to the national security dept. of Sinuiju, North Korea.

The second batch was shipped back on January 27, and the third batch was returned on January 30.

The above facts were revealed during interviews with Kim Kwang Myong (20), Yang Yong Ho (42) and Yang Gum Soon (15) who were in the first batch of 19 sent back to North Korea on Jan. 25. They managed to re-escape into China where LFNKR and Durihana Mission helped them to escape to a safe place.

Further testimony has been recorded from Kim Myong Chol (39), Yun Dong Geun (52) and Bee Myung Ok (50). The latter two are the son-in-law and the daughter of Kim Un Kum (72) who died during detention after she was sent back to North Korea.

For more details, please refer to excerpts from the interview with three of the witnesses and the brief backgrounder on the witnesses at the web pages:
         "Transcript of Escapee Interview
         "Names & INfo on Witnesses"

If China still insists that they have not repatriated the North Korean Refugees, China is obliged to tell the international community exactly where these people are now.

In reply to an inquiry from the South Korean government, China claimed that they have not sent the refugees back. This is a betrayal by China of South Korea. It is beyond belief that the South Korean government would fail to lodge a protest, knowing that China is not telling the truth.

Regarding others arrested by China, Choi Yong-hun, Kim Hee-tae, and Choi Bong-il, who are South Korean humanitarian aid workers, still remain in detention after 8 months, 14 months and 18 months, respectively. The South Korean government should commit itself more seriously to rescuing its own people.

Meantime, Japanese humanitarian aid workers, arrested under the same charges were released within days. Hiroshi Kato of this NGO, arrested in October, 2002 was returned to Japan after 7 days. Fumiaki Yamada of HRNK, detained in August 2003, was released after 3 weeks.

China appears to have a clear double standard in its application of the law.

UNHCR has a moral and legal obligation to enforce its special privilege according to the Agreement with China when they opened their Beijing Office by immediately demanding access to the North Korean refugees in China.

China has obviously breached the Convention on Refugees which it signed, and is continuing its unforgivable breach of humanitarianism and denial of human rights.

Considering China’s place in the world spotlight as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, there are those who question that country’s fitness to serve as host of the Olympics.

Kenkichi Nakadaira
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees