member, Noguchi, held for helping
Another Japanese Aid Worker
China appears to be hardening its stance toward
humanitarian aid workers. One week after Noguchi was arrested,
several South Korean aid workers were given unprecedentedly long
prison sentences of up to nine years.
For Press Conference Jan. 13, 2004
Mr. Takayuki Noguchi (32), a member of the Japanese
NGO Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), disappeared on
December 10, 2003 while in China. The LFNKR home office has not
heard from Noguchi since Dec. 10, following a routine check-in phone
call on that date from Guilin, Guangxi in China at 11:45 AM (Japan
who is in charge of International Relations for LFNKR,
was accompanied by two North Korean refugees who had escaped
from North Korea. The two refugees are a woman in her 40s,
and a man B in his 50s. The woman was born in Tokai Region,
Japan and taken to North Korea by her mother, who believed
that "North Korea was a paradise on earth", a story
widely fostered by the General Association of Korean Residents
in Japan in the 1960s. The man, who was born in West Japan,
moved to North Korea in the early 1960s.
afternoon of Dec. 11, LFNKR requested the Japanese
Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inquire into the safety of
Noguchi and the two North Koreans.
to a verbal message that LFNKR received from Northeast
Asia Division, Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the
afternoon of Dec. 16, Takayuki Noguchi was taken into custody
on the 13th and charged with illegally transporting people
to cross the border (Article 321) and an attempted crime under
the same (Article 61). He is being held in Nanning prison
Dec. 18, when a consul from the Japanese Consulate
in Guangzhou, China visited Noguchi at Nanning prison, Noguchi
has repeatedly pleaded with the consul to urge LFNKR and UNHCR
to immediately try and secure protection of the two North
Koreans who were with him when arrested. LFNKR has been seeking
every possible way to prevent the repatriation, as requested
by Noguchi. Examples of organizations and people with whom
LFNKR has worked include UNHCR, the South Korean government,
several parliamentary members of Japan and South Korea in
addition to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However,
after 30 days of quiet, behind-the- scenes diplomacy failed
to win their release, it was decided to make a public announcement.
January 12, confirmation was received that the two
North Korean defectors are still in China and have not yet
been repatriated. A delay such as this is highly unusual.
LFNKR hopes that it will lead to their being deported to a
safe third country that they chose.
urges the Chinese government to conform to international
laws on refugees, with recognition of universal human rights
and humanitarian concerns.
the past several years, LFNKR has supplied food,
clothing, medicines, and other assistance to North Korean
refugees in North Korea and China through its own local network.
October 2002, Kato, the head of LFNKR, was arrested
while in China to supply food and winter clothing to North
Born July 13, 1971 in Saitama, Japan
A graduate of Arkansas State University, he
lived in the US for seven years.
In 1999, Noguchi went to work for a trading
company in Japan, and in 2002, he began volunteer activities
for our Tokyo-based NGO, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees.
This was immediately before the head of our group, Hiroshi
Kato, was arrested and detained in China for seven days.
Noguchi is motivated to help save suffering
people and is deeply aware of the need for an international
framework to deal with the issue of refugee certification.
Thus, he has used his outstanding English ability to good
advantage, contributing to the promotion of the international
relationship of this NGO with other organizations both in
Japan and abroad.
He has consistently focused his efforts on
activities to win official certification of North Korean refugees,
which would be a major step forward in the North Korean issue.
Thus, one of his priority tasks during the
past year has been to organize an international conference
to be attended by Mr. Ruud Lubbers (UN High Commissioner of
Refugees). Others expected to attend the conference are members
of the International Parliamentarians' Coalition for the North
Korean Refugees and Human Rights (IPCNKR), other NGOs dedicated
to the same issues, and relevant international organizations.
When Commissioner Lubbers visited Japan in
June 2003, Noguchi met with him and they discussed the conference,
then he prepared an outline for the conference project and
submitted it to the Commissioner, who expressed his interest
Encouraged by Commissioner Lubbers' positive
feedback, Noguchi was preparing a series of follow-up documents
to be submitted to UNHCR. Meanwhile, he also volunteered to
accept a dangerous mission into China to rescue North Korean
refugees. In December 2003, he was arrested and detained by
the Chinese authorities.
was detained and interrogated for seven days before being
deported from China and banned from that country for 5 years.
experiences highlight once again how dangerous it can be
to go into China to assist North Korean refugees. LFNKR has therefore
been strongly urging the UNHCR and related international organizations
to immediately begin rescue activities for North Korean refugees.
Of special urgency is the need to grant them official refugee status.
At the same time, LFNKR is receiving a growing number of increasingly
urgent requests for help from North Korean refugees hiding in China,
particularly because China has intensified its crackdown on such
refugees. This organization has found it impossible to ignore the
cries for help from people whose lives are in danger.
to some reports, more than 100,000 North Korean refugees
may currently be hiding in China. They are obviously entitled to
be classed as refugees under relevant international laws. Since
LFNKR was founded in 1998, the organization has consistently urged
the Chinese government to stop repatriating North Korean refugees
because they face severe legal consequences, up to and including
the death penalty, under Article 47 of the North Korean Criminal
Takayuki Noguchi and other humanitarian aid workers who
have recently received actual prison sentences must be released
immediately. They include, for example, Rev. Choi Bong-il, who was
sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment, Kim Hee-tae, 7 years, Choi
Yong-hun, 5 years, and South Korean journalist Seok Jae-hyun, 2
North Korean refugee issue no longer endangers only North
Korean lives; it is also seriously jeopardizing the lives of humanitarian
aid workers who attempt to bring help the refugees.
growing number of aid workers, whose only "crime"
is helping people in need, are being imprisoned, tortured and severely
mistreated at the hands of a nation that continues to disregard
the norms of civilized law and behavior. Meanwhile, international
organizations such as UNHCR, which are legally charged with monitoring
such illegal behavior, are still being blocked by the Chinese government.
is obvious that rescue activities have now grown beyond
the limited resources of small NGOs such as LFNKR. This organization
repeats in the strongest possible terms its request that UNHCR take
the leadership internationally to work together with all related
countries, including China, Russia, the USA, Europe, South Korea,
and Japan, to resolve the issue of North Korean refugees.
North Korean refugee issue is no longer merely a regional
matter; it is an international humanitarian and human rights issue.
This is causing the Chinese government to be faced with growing
diplomatic problems and security issues in Northeast Asia. China
must begin working on this issue within an international framework.
Funds for North Korean Refugees
A-101, 2-2-8 Nishikata, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0024