Tag Archives: repatriation
Because Donations Have Fallen Off …
One important part of our assistance efforts is the orphanages we support. Winter is upon us now, and the six-month cold season in that region always means heavier expenses.
Some of that increase goes for warm winter clothes, of course, but the bulk is needed for coal to heat the buildings where our orphans live.
Below is our interview with a North Korean defector.
“I escaped into China on November 27, 2008. This is my fifth escape. I have no place to go. Let me die here or please help me.”
The temperature outside is already down to -10°C and it will continue to fall. Hong Song-man, 65 years old, begged the interviewer (an LFNKR local staff member) for help, pleading with tears in his eyes. He said he had previously stayed in a village in Helong, Yanbian Korean-Chinese autonomous state of Jilin Province, where villagers helped him.
His Dream – to Own a Yakitori Restaurant
Kim Chun Gun had only 1 month left until his visa expired when he decided to contact Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) – basically his last hope. When contacting us, Chun Gun mentioned that a Mr. Shin, the president of a Korean company, had suggested he get in touch with LFNKR. He, however, knew President Shin only indirectly and had never actually met him. He was told that President Shin, a humanitarian aid worker, had helped Chun Gun’s mother, who had already resettled in South Korea. Still, Chun Gun was uncertain whether mentioning Shin’s name would even work.
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.
Pass Permit Issuance Suspended in NK
In April, the North Korean government stopped issuing pass permits for North Koreans to enter China. Because of this, many North Koreans who have entered China, seem to be staying there even after their pass permits expire. This means that they are now illegal immigrants – defectors – and if arrested, they will be repatriated. As a matter of fact, according to a local LFNKR staff member in China, many North Korean defectors have already been arrested and sent back.
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.
Update from Suzanne Scholte
of North Korea Freedom Coalition
I am pleased to send another update on the events confirmed for North Korea Freedom Week April 26-May 3, 2008.
Please note that since my last update we have added several additional events: another panel session, a special demonstration by Youth for Truth and as a testament to the importance of North Korea Freedom Week, the producer of the soon-to-be-released movie Crossing, Patrick Cheh, is coming to show a special screening of this movie that is scheduled for threatrical release in South Korea in June.
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.
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.
Speech by Kato Hiroshi, Executive Director
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor for me to be here today and I would like to thank The Committee for the Bangkok International Conference for North Korean Human Rights for giving me the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of Life Funds for North Korean Refugees.
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.
North Korean Orphans Walk Out of Jail
April 24th, 2:30 pm Laos time, the 3 North Korean orphans were released from the jail in Vientiane, Laos, and the consul accompanied them to the South Korean embassy in Laos. They appear to be out of danger of repatriation now that they are under the protection of the South Korean embassy.
We will give you more information as details become available. We at LFNKR wish to thank everyone for their wonderful generosity and kindness of spirit on behalf of these 3 children.
Many Problems Confront Children of North Korean Mothers and Chinese Fathers
The international community has grown uncomfortably aware, over the past decade, of the many problems confronting North Korean defectors. The most urgent of these include capture by Chinese police and forced repatriation, as well as the need to find a way to a safe third country such as South Korea for resettlement.
China Still Violating Basic Human Rights
As a citizen’s group deeply involved in human rights, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) has long called for more rapid improvement of human rights in China.
At the end of September, for example, Chinese border guards were videotaped firing upon a group of Tibetan pilgrims, including nuns and juvenile priests. At least two of the pilgrims were killed, prompting growing criticism of China by the international community.
The Right Clothes Make a Person Invisible
For North Korean refugees hiding in China, the wrong clothes can mean arrest, repatriation and hard prison time. That is why their aim is to blend in, look like the Chinese locals, and escape notice. When warmer weather comes, if they are seen still wearing winter clothing, the Chinese police notice it immediately. Being noticed by the police automatically means arrest for them, followed quickly by forcible return to North Korea where harsh punishment awaits them.
China Tries Silencing 4 South Korean Lawmakers
Beijing, January 12, 2005 — Four South Korean lawmakers were harassed while attempting to hold a press conference in Beijing (see the lawmakers’ statement below), when the meeting was halted by a group of men in plain clothes who refused to identify themselves.
Journalists Swell the Crowd in Tokyo Demonstration
Actual participants numbered perhaps 30 or so, but with the journalists buzzing around our group, the crowd probably looked larger to the double-handful of guards blocking the gate to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo. We were careful to maintain order and obey the laws, but it appeared the embassy staff didn’t want to take chances. The guards remained serious and watchful throughout the protest.
The First International Planning Conference…
… for the Rescue of North Korean Refugees and Humanitarian Aid Workers hosted by the Japanese and Korean NGO Coalition was held in Tokyo on 18 and 19 July 2004. The two-day Conference, organized by three Japanese NGOs (The Society to Help Returnees to North Korea, RENK, and Life Funds for North Korean Refugees), attracted approximately 100 participants from 9 NGOs and 6 countries.
To be held In Parliament Wednesday, 11 February
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has scheduled a press conference in UK to be held at 10:00AM on Wednesday Feb. 11.
In addition, to foster greater support among EU influence centers to encourage the immediate release of the Korean and Japanese aid workers still detained in China, Mr. Hiroshi Kato, General Secretary of Life Funds For North Korean Refugees, andMr. Kim Sang Hun, a Korean humanitarian aid worker, are visiting influential political and NGO leaders in EU.
Below is the news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide.