Tag Archives: human trafficking
Rapidly approaching are the Christmas and New Year holidays – a perfect time for gift-giving. Perhaps you’ve been thinking of donating to a worthy charity. If so, may we suggest a very special group of orphans; abandoned children born to North Korean defectors in China.
The most recent child to come to our orphanage arrived just two months ago. Here is his story.
It was October 4, 2015, a Sunday, when, without announcement or appointment a fiftyish-looking man just showed up at our orphanage in China. With him was a young boy.
Low Funds Delay Rescue Mission – Can You Help?
For a while now, LFNKR has been working quietly with a couple of South Korean NGO partners. Currently, we are ready to launch missions that will result in the rescue of a total of seven North Korean defectors (3 families and one woman) now hiding in China. However, due to a depleted rescue budget, we find ourselves unable to implement the first step of this rescue plan.
Personal Accounts of NK Women Fleeing to China
An American NGO, The US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), at the end of April this year, released a 64-page document titled “Lives for Sale.” The report includes 53 summarized personal accounts, along with the history and context of such human trafficking of North Korean women in China. Most of the women fall into the hands of brokers, who sell them to Chinese farmers or to China’s sex trade.
‘Shadow Chidren’ Have No Nationality, Legal Status
In China, the number of children having no national identity papers continues to rise, particularly in the provinces of Jilin, Heilongjang, and Liaoning where the trend is strongest. These so-called “shadow children,” born to female North Korean defectors and Korean-Chinese or Han-Chinese men, are denied the right to register as real Chinese, which means they have neither identification nor official standing.
Brokers ‘help’ through threats, intimidation
Ms. Hiroko Saito, the Japan-born wife of a North Korean, was arrested in Japan on March 8 this year by Osaka Prefectural police. The woman, who had earlier escaped from North Korea and made her way to Japan, was arrested together with a Chinese couple on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control Act. She is suspected of falsely stating that the Chinese couple are relatives so that they could enter Japan illegally.
On March 14, the Tokyo Seminar on Refugees and Human Rights in Asia was held at the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) Global Space.
LFNKR (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) co-hosted the seminar with the Society to Help Returnees to North Korea. Also participating were speakers from Kachin Women’s Association in Thailand, Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition Japan, Human Rights Watch Tokyo, and Japan Association for Refugees.
When the president of one of most influential American NGOs having strong ties with the US government visited Japan in early March, LFNKR directors met with him to discuss the North Korean refugees.
We submitted the following recommendations on the approach to China, and requested that he strongly urge the Obama Administration to adopt the recommendations in establishing its approach to China.
Agenda for Tokyo Seminar
“North Korean Children Beyond the Border” a documentary film (20minutes) to be played continuously as people enter…
Hiroshi Kato, Secretariat
Director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR)
|14:00||State of Human Rights in Asia
Tokyo Director of Human Rights Watch
|14:20||Human Trafficking Forum
Stories from the victims
Opening remarks – Introduction
Testimony from victims
Participants Q & A
Trafficked North Korean women and their Children in China
Director of International Relations, LFNKR
The invisible trafficking to China from Kachin State in Myanmar
Director of Kachin Women’s Association in Thailand
Trafficking of North Koreans in China
Representative of Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition Japan
Reception condition of women and children asylum seekers in Japan
Secretary general of Japan Association for Refugees
Resettlement of North Korean Women and children in Japan
Representative of Society to Help Returnees to North Korea
Refugees and Human Rights in Asia
Annual Activities Report
For the Beijing Olympics held in August 2008, the Chinese and North Korean authorities continued their strict crackdown on North Korean defectors in the border areas and in China. The crackdown was so strict that even the transportation of public supplies were mostly prohibited.
Nevertheless, the inflow of North Korean defectors into China has not stopped, although the scale of the inflow is smaller than that during the period from late 1990s to early 2000s. The Chinese government still arrests and repatriates North Korean refugees, knowing that these people will be severely punished if sent back to their own country.
International society still repeatedly protests the repatriations by the Chinese government. The UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea has not yet been allowed access to conduct a probe of human-rights conditions in North Korea.
However, as the abuse of human rights in North Korea have become more widely disclosed around the world, international pressures on the North Korean government have grown. For example, many nations have come to question the effectiveness of international food aid to North Korea and stopped responding to requests from the World Food Program (WFP). There has been a tug of war between North Korea and aiding nations, which have specifically stated that they would provide food aid on condition that the North Korean government allow them to establish monitoring systems to assure their food aid will be properly used.
Reports from LFNKR local staff
According to recent reports from local staff members working at LFNKR’s shelters in the border area and LFNKR local workers in North Korea, the aged and children are starving to death in a village area located three railway stations inland from Musan, North Hamgyong, and deaths from malnutrition and starvation are starting up again in Hamhun, South Hamgyong and Chonjin in North Hamgyong.
Even large, first-tier corporations employing 2,000 or more have had to suspend their operations because they cannot procure materials, meaning that they cannot provide their employees with food. LFNKR has handed food to those people who came to China intending to return to North Korea once they had food. During the past year, LFNKR has distributed more than 30 tons of food in the border area to these needy North Koreans.
Human Trafficking and Orphans with no Nationality
At least 60% of North Korean defectors are female, and most of them become victims of human trafficking. Many of them are sold as brides to farmers in inland China because the villages in inland China are suffering from a shortage of marriageable women. Since the Chinese government launched its reform and opening-up policy, many young Chinese women in villages have moved away to urban areas in China, the South China economic bloc, South Korea and Japan where they can earn good pay.
In the Yanbien Korean Autonomous Region, about 8,000 Korean Chinese have been flocking to South Korea each year to work away from home. To fill this void, the Han people have moved into the region from other provinces. The disappearance of the Korean Autonomous Region is considered only a matter of time.Many of the Chinese farmers to whom North Korean women are sold are incapable of making a living. Often they suffer from metal disorders, or have little sense of social responsibility. Hence, if their North Korea wives are repatriated, the Chinese husbands tend to abandon any children they have. This is why the number of children with no nationality is increasing yearly.
One of the major activities of LFNKR is to protect these abandoned children under its education sponsorship program. LFNKR is happy to see those foster children raised under the program and eventually resettled in South Korea, where they can enjoy satisfying lives, attend university or technical college, and happily marry.[Chronological list of major activities during the last fiscal year]
Summary of Major Activities
- Participated in Thai International Conference on North Korean Refugees and Human Rights in North Korea held on Sept. 17-21, 2007
- Helped Tokyo Bar Association with their research on human rights in North Korea (Sept. 19, 2007)
- Held discussions with Guard Division, Japan Coast Guard (Oct. 2, 2007)
- Participated in Global Festival held in Tokyo to publicize the North Korean refugee issue (Oct. 6-7, 2007)
- Initiated a rescue plan for North Korean defector, Ms. R, who contacted LFNKR requesting help (Nov. 2, 2007)
- Successfully protected North Korean defector, Ms. E (Nov. 8, 2007)
- Attended at the 50th anniversary of Arakawa No. 9 Junior High School where North Korean defectors who have settled in Japan attend night classes (Nov. 11, 2007)
- Participated in NGO conference during the North Korean Human Rights Abuse Awareness Week (Dec. 14, 2007)
- Participated in the conference held in Sendai (city in northern Japan) one of a series of events for the North Korean Human Rights Awareness Week (Dec. 16, 2007)
- Mr. Kato, executive director of LFNKR, spoke on the North Korean human rights issue as a guest speaker at Christian University in South Korea (Dec. 20, 2007)
- Interviewed by Prof. Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN Special Rapporteur on NK Human Rights (Jan. 30, 2008)
- LFNKR received the family of a North Korean defector, Mr. K, who safely arrived in Tokyo (Jan. 30, 2008)
- Mr. Kato was a guest speaker at the international scholarly conference on North Korean human rights hosted by Christian University in South Korea (March 20, 2008)
- Mr. Kato was a guest speaker, at a public meeting hosted by Kanagawa Branch, the National Association for Rescue of Japanese Abducted by North Korea (March 23, 2008)
- Demonstrated with banners and placards protesting the North Korean human rights issue at the Olympics torch relay in Nagano, Japan (Apr. 26, 2008)
- Held discussions with NK & Beyond Missions International, a British NGO (June 6, 2008)
- Met with Open Radio North Korea
- Investigated development of a safe southern rescue route
Securing safety and protection of North Korean refugees
LFNKR has maintained a low-profile policy as much as possible in rescuing and protecting North Korean refugees. During the past year, no NGO humanitarian aid workers involved in LFNKR rescue activities has been arrested or held.
Most of LFNKR’s shelters, except for access points in the border area, are located in mountains to avoid the strict crackdown. LFNKR has supplied a total of about 20 tons of rice to more than 700 North Korean defectors and supplied about 500 sets of winter clothing and 2,000 pairs of socks to North Korean defectors.
One of LFNKR’s plans to help North Korean refugees wishing to settle in China is to help them acquire calves, so that they can raise and sell for profit. This should help the refugees become financially independent. This plan has been implemented at a few places in Jilin Province. So far, the plan has gone forward smoothly.
LFNKR has provided five North Korean refugee families (12 people) with protection until they reached safe places, and also helped one family (3 persons) to settle in Japan. LFNKR has assisted about 30 North Korean refugees in settling in South Korea. Among them are daughters of Japanese wives and the children of ethnic Koreans who originally lived in Japan.
LFNKR distributed 350 family medical kits in North Korea. These medical kits were procured in China and Japan, and each kit includes pain killers, antiphlogistics, nutritional supplements, etc.
Educational Sponsorship Program
Currently, over 20 refugee orphans are protected under the LFNKR educational sponsorship program. Two new shelters have been added. The foster children under the program receive money to cover their living expenses and education expenses from LFNKR through its local staff responsible for the program. The foster parents are notified of how their foster children are doing by letters from the children or by LFNKR newsletters on an irregular basis.
Most of the foster children were born to Chinese men and North Korean women who were victims of human trafficking. These children have no “nationality” because the Chinese government continues to treat their mothers as illegal immigrants. Most of their fathers are incapable of making a living or are indifferent to raising children. Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities continue to arrest and repatriate their mothers, mothers who are trying to raise their children and therefore should be granted the legal right to stay in China.
It is a sad fact that the foster children are not allowed to have legitimate inhabitant registration certificates in China, so that cannot enter high schools or higher educational facilities, no matter how excellent their school record. Even if they try for a higher education, they are highly likely to be denied entry, and may even be arrested and repatriated. These children are abandoned not only by their parents but by the Chinese government as well. The number of such children now reaching school age continues to rise.
Assisting Settling in
LFNKR has worked together with other NGOs to help North Korean defectors reach safe places in third countries. LFNKR has helped a number of refugees settle in Japan when they have explicitly rdquested this by working together with related governmental divisions, NGOs, and the North Korean Refugee Support Center of the Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan).
Among the North Korean defectors who have settled in Japan, those who are aged or suffer from chronic diseases receive welfare benefits, while most young defectors relatively quickly graduate from welfare and start leading independent lives.
Especially significant among the international lobbying activities were the field survey of North Korean refugees in Thailand and the meetings with the Thai National Human Rights Committee, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Chiangrai Immigration Bureau as well as police in the Thailand/Laos border area. We held discussions with them primarily on human rights and how to improve conditions at the overcrowded detention center.
Speakers included: Willy Fautre (Human Rights without Frontiers, President); Vincent Brossel (Reporters without Borders); David Hawk (human rights investigator and advocate and author of “the Hidden Gulag”); Chuck Downs (US Committee for NK HR); and Hiroshi Kato (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees).
Text of Kato Hiroshi’s Speech
It is my privilege and honor to present this speech here at the North Korean Human Rights Campaign 2008
Our main purposes at Life Funds for North Korean Refugees are: first, to provide humanitarian aid and protect the human rights of North Korea defectors in China and Southeast Asia; and second, to reach out to people in North Korea with food and medicine.
Out of 100,000 North Korean refugees hiding out in Northeastern China, about 70-100 are under LFNKR’s protection as of July 2008.
In my opinion, the worst form of human rights violation is human trafficking. The number of human trafficking victims is not yet clearly known, but we estimate the number to be more than 70% of all defectors. An investigation conducted in the villages where our shelters are located showed that 10-20% of all villagers are North Korean women who have been sold to Chinese men in the village. Out of 60,000-70,000 women defectors, at least half are of childbearing age.
Babies between Han Chinese and ethnic Koreans will reach 30,000-35,000, most of whom are unregistered.
The youngest victim of human trafficking I have met was 8 years old at the time she was sold. She was brought up in an ethnic Korean family in Heilong City, Jilin Province, but was sold for 1,500 RMB to an ethnic Chinese man at the age of fourteen. She gave birth at the age of 19. After the baby was born, she was sold again by a broker to a different man, and unfortunately I do not know where she is now. Girls being sold by a broker after childbirth are now very common to see.
The price of women varies: usually 5,000-10,000 RMB (approximately $500-1,000 US dollars), for girls up to the age of 20; 3,000-5,000 RMB (or $300-500 US dollars), for up to the age of 30; 2,000-2,500 RMB ($200-250 USD) for up to the age of 40 with a child; and 500-1,000 RMB (or $50-100 US dollars) for children.
However, this year, the price has increased. A woman in her 20s is sold at the price of 20,000 RMB because the number of female North Korean defectors is decreasing. North Korean women seem hesitant to escape the country due to the crackdown operation for the security of the Beijing Olympic Games, as well as forced repatriation that entails serious threats to life upon being returned to North Korea.
The trafficking of North Korean women goes back to 1985 when it was not yet as systematic. It was mere match-making organized by a broker for a rural Chinese man who could not marry in an orthodox way. At that time, the Chinese government welcomed them, and there was neither arrest nor forced repatriation. (But this has now become an organized business-like activity.)
Young women from three provinces in Northeast China that were excluded from China’s open economy reform policy started to move to the Southern China Economic Zone, Japan and Korea to find work. As a result, the female population in these rural areas has decreased considerably. The demand for North Korean women naturally became greater. The role of young North Korean women in replacing ethnic Chinese women was considered significant. The brokers taking advantage of the situation started to appear during this time and it became more organized and business-like.
In the late 1990s, the food rationing system of North Korea collapsed.
North Koreans seeking food started to escape to China, and from 1997 there was a massive influx of people from North Korea into China.
Ethnic Koreans in China provided their starving brethren with food and clothing. However, due to some people trying to take advantage of the goodwill of these ethnic Chinese, and an increased crime rate, the Chinese government started to strengthen the policy concerning North Korea defectors.
In 2000, trafficking of North Korean women became more serious. More women had risked their lives escaping to China and fell into the clutches of brokers. The reports made by staff members in charge of our shelters outlines many of these cases.
The Chinese police, in secret communication with the North Korean National Security Agency, has prosecuted these women who are illegally married to rural Chinese men. If a woman who had a child at the time of marriage is prosecuted, then the child no longer receives any protection and becomes an orphan. The child usually survives by helping with farming, taking care of cows in return for room and board.
The children of North Korean women sold to Chinese men face a bleak future. An infant can choose neither his or her own country nor parents. A mother has no choice but to sell herself.
Because the stay of these women is illegal their children are also stateless. They are not Chinese and not North Koreans either. They have no right to education or anything else. They have no human rights and are staying illegally. These children are languishing in extreme poverty.
Early last year, the mother of 5-year-old Kim Yong-soon was arrested and repatriated to North Korea. Her crime? Leaving the starvation in North Korea and seeking survival in China.
But once this young woman had escaped North Korea six years ago, she was quickly sold into a forced marriage to a Chinese man, and just as quickly became pregnant. This is how she came to give birth to daughter Kim Yong-soon. The daughter, Yong-soon is now being supported under LFNKR’s foster parent program.
Our people, the LFNKR local staff in China, reported to us that it will be impossible for her to return again, since this is her third repatriation.
You know, you have to wonder why it is that Chinese government policies show no mercy to families. They callously tear them apart, separating mothers and children with no regard to human feeling.
In Yanji, Longjin, and other cities near the border between China and North Korea, the two countries have intensified their joint crackdown.
North Korean authorities provide Chinese security police with information on North Korean defectors, and the Chinese police follow up relentlessly. These police personnel are highly motivated — their government is paying high bounties. For each North Korean refugee they arrest, someone puts 2,000 RMB in their pocket. That bounty payment equals the monthly salary of most university graduates in China.
Over the years, human rights NGOs, International organizations and foreign governments have made numerous appeals. They have asked the government of China about this issue of North Korean defectors in China.
The Chinese government has ignored these appeals. In fact, they have never bothered to respond at all, and meanwhile they continue to forcibly return North Korean refugees to face the certainty of brutal persecution in North Korea. This is an obvious and blatant defiance of humanitarianism. The Chinese government clearly has no interest in what the international community thinks.
UNHCR’s appeals to the government of China are always ignored. Beijing has also ignored the appeals of the South Korean government on behalf of aid workers arrested for helping North Korean refugees.
The two lessons to be learned from past incidents are these: first, China responds only to a strong show of force. And second, the last thing that works with the Chinese government is an appeal to humanitarian consideration. China is submissive to the stronger, but shows no mercy to the weaker.
The North Korean defectors are in a position of strength when they are in the custody of foreign embassies and weak if they are outside the custody of a strong power.
I now publicly issue a call to all South Korean activists and North Korean defectors. From this moment forward, I urge you to direct your efforts to collecting evidence, testimony and information that provides full details for the international community in general and the UN Special Rapporteur, in particular.
In addition, we all should take this occasion to acknowledge, with profound thanks, all the efforts that have led to successfully exposing North Korean Crimes against Humanity. We can be proud of the widespread call for justice that was demonstrated by the passage of the North Korea Human Rights Act in the US Congress, the series of resolutions adopted by the UN, among many others, and the resolution on human rights in DPRK, which the UN General Assembly approved last December.
As a next step, I would like to see the UN Security Council raise the issue of creating an International human rights investigation team to be dispatched to North Korea. I do recognize, however, that the chances of that happening are quite slim with Russia and China on the Council. They are very likely to block any such efforts.
Since North Korea’s crimes are of the most serious nature, we cannot just stop here. I suggest that we approach the International Criminal Court by presenting hard evidence, verified information and solid proof. Obtaining this kind of evidence and proof from inside North Korea is definitely a realistic possibility because, in recent years, many North Korean officials have grown increasingly demoralized as they face mounting personal danger in the ongoing power struggles.
We should redouble our efforts now toward obtaining undeniable and credible information from inside North Korea — information that is so strong and so convincing that it must be taken to the International Criminal Court.
In closing my speech today, and with your permission, I wish to personally call upon the entire international community to intervene decisively in the North Korean situation. It is a matter of international responsibility — clearly so.
Let us, therefore, create a living reality that some day all innocent North Korean prisoners, as well as all South Korean and Japanese abductees, will know for a fact that they were never for a single moment forgotten by the people of the world.
To the President of China
Dear President Hu Jintao,
The international community continues to watch in horror as the Chinese government tracks down and deports North Korean refugees in advance of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. This practice is a stain on the face of China. We urge you to immediately cease arresting and repatriating North Korean refugees.
Name: Choi Chong-mi
(Female, Name changed for safety)
Birth date: 1969
Hometown: Hamgyong Bukto
It is an unending nightmare. I don’t know how to begin telling everything that has happened to me. It will probably sound like fiction to you. When I was two years old, following the death of my father, I was taken in by four aunts and an uncle. My cousins were like my parents, sisters and brother.
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees, NGO
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.
Annual Activities Report
It is now obvious that North Korean defectors are being widely recognized and accepted as a legitimate issue by the international community. According to the resolution unanimously passed by the UN General Assembly last December, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea has been urging the North Korean government to correct its serious infringement of human rights and to allow the rapporteur entry into the country to investigate human rights there.
First, Banished to the Middle of Nowhere for Watching a South Korean Movie
Hwang Miryon, 19
Former Chongjin University student
(Name changed to protect her safety)
My family was relatively well-off even in Chongjin, but in August 2005 we were suddenly struck by misfortune, something we could never have imagined. It all started when a family with whom we were friends was arrested on charges of watching a foreign film. An acquaintance of the wife was arrested by the “109 Brigade” and before we knew it they had come for us as well.
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.
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:
- 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.
- immediately free the currently detained North Korean refugees and humanitarian aid workers, and
- grant Chinese nationality to North Korean defectors who marry Chinese citizens as well as to their children, and allow them to settle in China.
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.
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.
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.
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.