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Report on LFNKR Activities
in FY 2001 - 2002

Presented September 28, 2002

This report was prepared for the 5th General Meeting of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR).

Establishing, expanding liaison with international NGOs

At the International Conference on North Korean Refugees and Human Rights held in Tokyo in February 2002, we announced our activities to the world in preparation for promoting our cooperation with other international NGOs.

Among current matters, our interests are now being directed toward the opening of a refugee camp for accommodating North Korean refugees.

As the circumstances of the North Korean refugees change, we face the obvious need to expand and further intensify our activities. More specifically, we must seriously consider securing more resources, both human and financial, to meet the growing needs.

Instead of maintaining the scope of our activities unchanged, we are now expanding our view toward working more actively in the international framework in a spirit of cooperation and solidarity.

What LFNKR accomplished in FY 2001-2002

1. Protecting the North Korean refugees

LFNKR is currently protecting and supporting about 300 North Korean refugees in China.

(1) Supply of summer and winter clothing

We distributed a total of 500 outfits for cold weather during the period from December 2001 to February 2002, and a total of 300 sets of summer clothing.

(2) Supply of food to our shelters and emergency evacuation places

We distributed a total of 14.4 tons of rice during the past year. Monthly, the shelter RYO-01 located in China receives 400kg of rice, and the shelter RN-01 near the border receives 800 kg of rice.

(3) Medical treatment aid

LFNKR provided medical treatment to a female North Korean refugee suffering from tuberculosis. Under a doctor's diagnosis and instructions, she received medication for six months. Because it was difficult to obtain the necessary medications in China, we sent the medicine for treating tuberculosis from Japan. She has recovered and is happy, saying that she is now healthy enough to handle daily life.

We also paid the expenses for an operation for a girl who suffered from cerebral meningitis and peritonitis.

In one case, we paid for childbirth expenses and milk for the newborn.

(4) Financial support extended to Korean Chinese engaged in activities to secure the safety and protection of NK

refugees LFNKR paid a total of 50,000 RMB or 750,000 yen (1RM=15yen) in fines to bail out NK refugees and our local staff members helping them, when they were arrested by Chinese police.

In four cases involving three shelters, namely, RYO-01, RYO- 2, and YAN-01, we were fined for protecting and nurturing North Korean orphans under our foster parent scheme.

(5) Financial aid to NK refugees returning to NK

In 15 cases North Korean refugees were working in China to support their families in North Korea, but they were not paid as promised. When the workers demanded their wages, the employers threatened to inform the police. To help those refugees return to their families, we compensated them for their lost wages. The total amount paid for this purpose was 6,000 RMB (90,000 yen).

2. Self-reliance aid program

This is the third year of our self-reliance program to help North Korean refugees make a living through their own skills.

(1) LFNKR has helped the refugees with the production of colorful hand-knit mats and has sold the items. Each was sold at 500 yen, which buys 10 kg of rice for North Korean refugees at our shelters. Ms. Yamada, one of our LFNKR members has continued to sell the hand-knit mats at every opportunity and has sold over 200. At the seminars held by the Ladies' Association of Mindan (the Korean Residents Union in Japan), 346 were sold. Another member sold 50 at a small local Amnesty group event. A total of 600 hand-knit mats have been sold.

(2) Likewise, a total of 120 key holders have been sold, which exhausted the entire inventory. However, each lot of key holders has a different design, and it is difficult to maintain constant quality. There is still some room for improvement.

(3) The wooden crosses made by the refugees are only popular among Christians, so they are not well suited for sales to the general public in Japan. There are currently 50 wooden crosses in stock, and no orders have been received. Some people suggested that we should replace them with accessories, such as cross pendants.

(4)The results of the farm operation will be verbally reported at the general meeting.

3. Foster parent scheme

The foster parent scheme is one of the longest-running activities of LFNKR. However, the stringent crackdown under the Chinese government's "Strike Hard" campaign has reached our North Korean refugee orphans, too. Three of our shelters were searched after being betrayed, and more than ten children under age 15 years were arrested and repatriated by Chinese border guards. This was a great shock to the foster parents, who are LFNKR members. Our efforts to give those children hope and a future are facing a severe challenge. (More details will be verbally given at the general meeting.)

4. Distribution of food

Our food supply routes to Hamgyong Bukto and Hamgyong Namdo continue to be maintained and operated regularly. We have been able to maintain the monthly supply of 5 tons in terms of rice to distribution routes RN-01 and RR-02.

The distribution volume target we set last fiscal year was 6 tons per month. It seems more reasonable, however, to establish a goal of maintaining a distribution level of 5 tons monthly, judging from the capacity of our current network.

We have 25 main distribution spots in Hamgyong Bukto and Hamgyong Namdo, and have added a new distribution spot in Ryang Gang Do.

The food is of course supplied to people seriously in need, with higher priorities given to people with higher emergency levels.

The problem of starving people eating the stocks of seed corn still remains unsolved. During this fiscal year, we supplied 2 tons of seed corn, 2 tons of nappa (celery cabbage) seeds, and 2 tons of radish seeds in April and June.

According to reports by some local staff members who carried out the distribution operation in the De Hong Dan County, the number of people starving to death is increasing as it did in 1996 and 1997. In the Tehondangun area, the supply of food has not yet been resumed.

We need to discuss whether the non-regular supply route RR- 03 should be upgraded to a regular supply route. To achieve this, it will be essential to secure additional financial resources and staff members.

5. Helping NK refugees with moving and settling

During the past year, we had xx (number) North Korean refugees who needed help with moving to and settling in other countries, after third countries agreed to assist.

One of our vitally important assignments is to develop and find the human resources equipped with adequate knowledge and experience to fulfill this task. Thus, the network of Korean volunteers that we have built is invaluable.

LFNKR considers it important to maintain liaison and cooperation with other friendly NGOs. This liaison backed by mutual trust encourages us all in coping with the challenge of the issue of North Korean refugees. At the same time, we must never forget that some staff members of overseas NGOs with whom we have been working have been arrested and detained by the Chinese authorities.

It is expected that more than 1,000 refugees will settle in South Korea by the end of this year. However, there have actually been indications that not every refugee has been able to smoothly adapt to the South Korean society, although they share a common language.

Others were originally ethnic Koreans born in Japan, who were persuaded to move to North Korea by glittering promises. Some of those may wish to try and return to Japan, where they were born. Often these returnees bring along their children who do not know the Japanese language. According to Kyodo News Service, more than 20 returnees reportedly have already returned to Japan in secret. Adjusting to Japanese society, where the language and cultural differences are far greater, may be even more difficult. LFNKR must be prepared to establish a system and policy for aiding the refugees to settle in.

6. Publishing books and booklets

Publishing books and booklets on the people, human rights and actual conditions in North Korea has been positioned as an important LFNKR publicity activity. In May this year, we arranged publishing for a 5,000-copy initial printing of the book "Datsuhokusha" through the publisher Banseisha. The book is the diary of a North Korean escapee who almost reached freedom on his third attempt, but was caught at the last moment, repatriated, and tortured to death. His daughter kept his diary. The book is the only legacy he left. With sales increasing, a little greater push will allow us to arrange a second printing.

We also planned to publish "Jun Gu Village Camp Number 12" (provisional title) in the form of a booklet; however, we were not able to finish it before the fiscal year ended. This should be realized early next fiscal year.

7. Holding debriefing sessions and informal gatherings

Another new project for the fiscal year is our promotion of publicity activities. For this purpose, we have held sessions to report on our specific aid activities along the border of China and North Korea, and the actual situations of refugees.

According to our representative's suggestion, LFNKR has begun hosting luncheon sessions for people supporting our activities. This new activity has been accepted quite favorably. We plan to continue such events and also to hold informal discussion sessions or meetings in other local areas in Japan.

We have begun appealing to Mindan, the Korean Residents Union in Japan, to extend their interests to the actual situation of North Korean refugees and to support our activities from the viewpoint of humanity and human rights. Thanks to our continued efforts, we were invited to speak at the national workshop of the Ladies' Association of Korean Residents in Japan during June and July 2002. At seven venues in Japan, we addressed a total of about 3,000 members of the Ladies' Association.

At every venue, we received favorable responses to our appeal. In a number of cases, audience members, primarily those who have relatives, acquaintances, or friends in North Korea told the speakers from LFNKR that they had lost track of their relatives or friends, or that they are still sending money and supplies to the relatives in North Korea. Some told us that they no longer heard from their brothers or sisters in North Korea. After the lectures, the speakers were surrounded by members of the audience wishing to exchange information. Quite a few attendees gave us words of encouragement.

At the venues, we sold the hand-knit mats and key holders, which are products made by the refugees under the self- reliance project. The speakers from LFNKR all appealed to the audience, telling them "If you buy one of these products, it means that you are buying 10 kilograms of rice for North Korean refugees. A total of 346 colorful hand- knit mats was sold, which will buy the refugees 3,460 kg of rice. In addition, 120 key holders and 504 copies of the book "Datsuhokusha" (Escapee from North Korea) were sold.

8. Procedure for registering as NPO (Nonprofit Organization) has begun

During the past year we considerably expanded our activities. As our relationships with government agencies, organizations and overseas NGOs expanded, we have seen our social credibility, influence, and responsibilities grow. We have decided to upgrade the status of LFNKR from a group of volunteers to a corporation, and have started the legal procedure for registration.

In the midst of preparing for legal registration, a serious security threat arose, which caused us to hesitate about disclosing the real names and addresses of some LFNKR directors. For that reason, we decided to modify the list of directors' names before submitting our legal document for registration. The modified document was submitted to the appropriate authorities in September 2002, a delay of some few months from our original schedule. The authorities' decision will be announced in the next fiscal year.