Proposed Action Plan for 2007-2008

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, NGO

Strained Relations

The crackdown on North Korean refugees by both the Chinese and North Korean governments has drastically cut the flow of North Koreans into China, reducing it to levels below those of the past decade. China’s official position is that North Korean refugees do not exist, a stance that blatantly ignores international law, including the Convention on the Status of Refugees, to which it is a signatory nation.

North Koreans who flee their country continue to face ruthless repatriation, followed by severe punishment upon their return. This includes being “disappeared,” sent to prison camps, or publicly executed.

There are, however, signs that China’s policy of forced repatriation could be influenced by international censure. China appears currently to be “cleaning up internally” ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And clearly the Chinese government is cooperating with the North Korean government in the intensified crackdown on defectors.

NGOs from around the world concerned with human rights in China are calling for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics if China does not improve its human-rights record. For this reason relations continue to be strained between human rights workers and the Chinese government.

Concerns of North Korean Refugees

The situation facing the vast majority of North Koreans entering China is cause for concern. The continued sweeps for defectors by Chinese regular and border police seems likely to increase, in which case Chinese human-rights issues will be thrust into the international spotlight.

We have received reports from our contacts in five separate sites in North Hamgyong Province and the border area telling us that the situation due to this year’s floods in August is similar to 1996-97. During that period, large numbers of people died of starvation. According to these reports, those who die of starvation on the North Korean side of the border are not generally from that area, but come from the interior. Huge death tolls due to starvation are being reported in all areas except North Hamgyong Province and Ryanggang Province.

Trafficking in North Korean Women

Human trafficking is a grave human rights risk facing North Korean defectors. China still refuses to change its position that defectors are guilty of “entering illegally” or “staying illegally,” so North Korean women seeking a life of freedom by entering China are almost certain to be sold illegally.

Most North Korean women who are trafficked are bought by Chinese families for a son or other male family member in farming and fishing villages. In many cases these “husbands” are difficult cases incapable of supporting their families, and are often either mentally or physically handicapped, or simply irresponsible. Thus, if the “bride” has children, then is forcibly repatriated to North Korea, many of the husbands abandon the children. The number grows yearly of such children, all of whom China denies citizenship, making them stateless.

The children of North Korean mothers and Chinese fathers should be given Chinese citizenship, and their primary caregivers—their mothers—must be granted permission to stay in China legally. However, the Chinese government uses their illegal status as justification to forcibly repatriate the women with or without their children, to North Korea where they face almost certain death.

A Rational Solution for the Chinese Government

We would like to propose a rational solution for the government’s consideration.

We suggest that granting Chinese citizenship to the children of North Korean mothers and Chinese fathers, and legalizing the stay of these mothers so that they can raise their children, is the bare minimum China should be doing.

We have received reports that in Yangqing, in Shenyang, Yanji Autonomous Region, there are some cases of legalized status. There is, however, no evidence that this has reached the level of the central government.

Trafficking is a major issue, considering that at the very minimum 60-70% of North Korean women fall prey to it. In order to improve the human rights situation in North Korea, increased international cooperation is necessary to survey the extent of human rights abuses. In addition, we will spare no effort to breathe life into Japan’s North Korean Human Rights Law, and to facilitate the resettlement in Japan of defectors from North Korea.

LFNKR’s 2007-2008 ACTION PLAN:

1. Support of North Korean Refugees and
Humanitarian Aid Workers

Assist as many North Korean refugees and victims of trafficking as possible. Work for the release of jailed humanitarian workers so that they may continue to work for the benefit of defectors.

2. Safety and Protection of North Korean Refugees

Build and maintain shelters as necessary. Distribute 500 sets of summer and winter clothing. Provide 30 tons of rice-based food aid, and be prepared to provide up to 40 tons if necessary. Assist, financially and otherwise, North Korean defectors who wish to return home.

3. Medical Assistance

Distribute 300 home medical kits. Subsidize hospital stays and other treatment as needed.

4. Sponsorship Program

The number of school-age children born of North Korean mothers and Chinese fathers is increasing. Although these children ought to be granted Chinese citizenship and their mothers given permission to reside in China, the Chinese authorities are arresting the mothers, sometimes with their children, and forcefully repatriating them. We must increase our efforts to help these children, whose numbers are increasing, if last year’s information is any guide.

It has been ten years since Life Funds started the sponsorship program, and some of the first children in the program are now reaching adulthood. Many of them continue to live in hiding in China. Sadly, some have become victims of trafficking and seek our assistance once more. The sponsorship program aims to aid these former foster children as well.

5. Relocation and Settlement

Assist North Korean defectors who can neither return to North Korea nor remain in China to reach safety via a third country. Cooperate with relevant government agencies, NGOs, and the Mindan North Korean Support Center to assist defectors who wish to settle in Japan. Recruit volunteers to help with the settlement process. Assist defectors through enrollment in Japanese-language schools and night schools (junior-high school level).

6. Expansion and Development of International

Work to build and maintain networks of people committed to our work. Participate in hearings relevant to human rights issues in the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress, and continue our lobbying efforts.

Develop and nurture personnel who are native speakers of Chinese, Korean, and/or English. To the extent possible, accept intern(s) to assist with our work.

7. Events and Seminars

Sponsor seminars for speakers, who may include defectors, visitors to North Korea, and humanitarian aid workers, in order to increase awareness of the issues.

8. Finances

Develop Life Funds’ financial support network to be able to continue the vital work we do. Continue the installment-payment plan. Double our current base of supporters from 50 to 100.

9. Complete the Registered NPO Process

Complete, as soon as possible, the paperwork necessary for Life Funds’ becoming a registered NPO having full tax-deductible charity status, to facilitate our fund raising work.