Tag Archives: Kato Hiroshi

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

From Hiroshi Kato, Executive Director,
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees

 Wishing all of you health and prosperity in the New Year 

It appears that North Korea has succeeded in establishing a three-generation political dynasty. However, the UN has passed resolutions condemning the North’s human rights abuses, calling them grave, widespread, systematic abuses that amount to crimes against humanity. The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution critical of the DPRK with the support of 119 countries.

Kato Answers Emails of Concern

In Answer to All Your Emails - From LFNKR's Kato Hiroshi
Since March 11, Japan has experienced an unprecedented series of catastrophic events. The emails pouring in to LFNKR from our friends both in Japan and abroad have been asking if we are safe, as well as offering encouragement and assistance. All of us at LFNKR deeply appreciate your concern and your kindness.

US State Dept. Honors LFNKR’s Kato

US State Department presented Kato their Freedom Defender Award on 26 April 2010

Exec. Director Kato Recognized

In recognition for years of effort on behalf of North Korean refugees hiding in China, the US State Department, on 26 April 2010, presented a special certificate to LFNKR Executive Director Kato Hiroshi in a ceremony at the US embassy in Tokyo.

Tokyo Bar Association Awards Human Rights Prize to LFNKR

Kato Hiroshi, executive director of LFNKR, speaking at awards event

Kato’s Speech Text

Honored members of the human rights awards screening committee of the Tokyo Bar Association, and ladies and gentlemen gathered here today, I would like to express profound thanks to the esteemed Tokyo Bar Association for presenting the human rights awards for 2008. We at Life Funds for North Korean Refugees are deeply honored to receive your award this year.

Kato Addresses Thai University

Main Gate of Chiang Mai University

Thailand’s Chiang Mai University Invites First-Ever Lecture on North Korean Refugee Issue

On Jan. 23, 2009, Mr. Kato Hiroshi, Executive Director of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) presented a lecture on the North Korean human rights and refugee issue at Chiang Mai University. Chiang Mai University (CMU), with about 17,000 students, is the largest university in Northern Thailand.

LFNKR’s Kato Addresses Int’l Conference

Kato Hiroshi Speaks to International Conference

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.

Thank you.

Former Foster Child in LFNKR Shelter Now a Mom

Baby Soe-hee was born in April 2008.

LFNKR’s “Grand Daughter”

It’s fun when we get to report good news. Last month, a baby girl, named Soe-hee, was born to one of LFNKR’s former North Korean orphans who attended our education sponsorship program after escaping from North Korea into China. Baby Soe-hee was born in April 2008.

Photos of Bangkok Conference on NK Refugees

Human Rights Issues Discussed

Over 170 participants plus 20 international journalists and media people packed the conference hall of the Ambassador Hotel Bangkok. These are photos of several of the presenters.

LFNKR’s Kato Speaks at 4th General Meeting of International Lawmakers

Kato Hiroshi urges "Protect North Korean Refugee Human Rights"

“Protect North Korean Refugee Human Rights”

This organization’s Secretary General, Kato Hiroshi,addressed the 4th annual meeting of International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees’ Human Rights (IPCNKR). Representatives totalled 111 and came from 36 different countries at this year’s conference, which was held in Japan. 

Japan Needs Refugee Settlement Program ASAP

Special Report by Kato Hiroshi

Shock waves rocked Japan recently when four North Korean defectors sailed into Funaura port in Aomori Prefecture (northeastern Japan) in a seven-meter wooden boat whose top speed was just 10 knots . The arrival of the four family members on Japanese shores from Chongjin, 850 km away, after ten days at sea, was nothing short of miraculous. 

International Protest Slated for April 28, 2007

To Save North Korean Refugees

Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) urges each person reading this to take part in the International Protest against China’s Violent Treatment of North Korean Refugees. This Protest, led by NORTH KOREA FREEDOM COALITION, is scheduled to be held all around the World on April 28. North Korean refugees who escape into China seeking food and freedom immediately encounter a new problem – the constant fear of arrest and repatriation by Chinese authorities.

Former NK Orphan Sends Thanks Email in English

Hungry to Learn

LFNKR members were excited to receive a series of emails in English from one of our former foster children, a North Korean orphan whom we sheltered in China, then helped escape to safety in South Korea. The young man, Chol Song Kim, was born 5 Feb. 1985. Although Chol Song received the bare minimum of education during his years of hiding, now that he is safe in South Korea, he is eagerly making up for lost time. He recently went to Australia for a short, intensive English course.

Photos from International Symposium in Tokyo

Speakers included LFNKR's Kato Hiroshi (right) and beside him, Diet member Masaharu Nakagawa.

Speakers included LFNKR’s Kato Hiroshi (right) and beside him, Diet member Masaharu Nakagawa

During the International Symposium on North Korean Human Rights held in Tokyo December 10th through 16th, our organization, LFNKR, hosted two of the events.

NEWS FLASH: Choi Yong-hun Released Today

Jailed in China for 3 years, 10 months

BREAKING NEWS: Choi Yong-hun, the South Korean humanitarian aid worker imprisoned by China for nearly 4 years left prison today and flew back home to South Korea. Choi was met at Incheon Airport this evening by close family members. And although he appears extremely weak following his imprisonment, he took the time to express his thanks to all those around the world who have supported him with their prayers, letters and other contributions.

4 NGO Members Named in NK Arrest Warrants

Two LFNKR Members on the List

Japanese news media are reporting that North Korea has issued arrest warrants for four Japanese NGO workers. The men have reportedly been named as suspects in the abduction of North Korean citizens. The North Korean Ministry of People’s Security, announced on 27 March 2006 the issue of arrest warrants and notified the Japanese government via diplomatic channels, demanding that the four be handed over to North Korean custody.

North Korea Calls Japanese NGOs Kidnappers

NGO Members Accused of Abduction

The people of Japan were amazed February 7 when television and newspapers announced that North Korea had accused Kato Hiroshi and 6 other Japanese NGO members of abducting North Korea citizens. Kato is Secretary-General of our NGO, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR). The accusations came during the 3-day bilateral talks with Japan that, it was hoped, would help to resolve the ongoing dispute over Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents during the last three decades. The talks were held in Beijing.

In-Depth Overview of NK Refugee Issues

Tim Peters of Helping Hands Korea addresses a Joint Session of NGOs and Lawmakers from 4 Nations

Tim Peters, Founder, Helping Hands Korea

I am very honored to address this joint conference that brings together a wide range of NGO’s and the Inter-Parliamentarian Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights that includes distinguished representatives of Japan’s House of Councilors and House of Representatives, U.S. Congressmen, the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, representatives of the State Great Hural (Parliament) of Mongolia and the Parliament of New Zealand. 

Joint Assembly of International Lawmakers, NGOs

More Crackdowns in China

The Chinese government continues to intensify its crackdown on North Korean refugees, with an eye to eliminating them before the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Meanwhile, the South Korean government, the first you would expect to protect North Korean refugees, appears increasingly reluctant to accept them.

Noguchi Back From China Imprisonment

Noguchi's face clouds when discussing the two Japan-born North Korean refugees being repatriated.

Takayuki Noguchi Arrives in Japan

Noguchi’s face clouds as he tells of the two Japan-born North Korean refugees he tried to save. They were eventually repatriated. 

At approximately 9:00 PM on 9th August, Takayuki Noguchi walked through the arrival gate at Narita Airport, after having served an 8-month prison sentence for attempting to assist two Japan-born North Korean refugees.

China Still Holding Noguchi & other Aid Workers

More European officials questioning North Korea

Earlier this month, a BBC documentary revealed strong evidence that North Korea is running chemical and biological experiments on political prisoners and their entire families.

Mr. Kato Hiroshi, secretary-general of our organization, together with Mr. Sang Hun Kim, Korean human rights activist, flew to Europe to meet with UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, as well as NGO officials and parliamentary members in a number of countries. The purpose of the trip was to explore greater European involvement in and support for an end to Chinese maltreatment and repatriation of North Korean refugees.