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LFNKR Report
for Fiscal Year 2005

Sept. 2004 to Aug. 2005

On Oct. 9, 2005, LFNKR held its annual General Meeting in Tokyo. 


Kato Hiroshi addresses members at LFNKR General Meeting


The group gets down to business

This report outlines the achievements of LFNKR during the last fiscal year

I.

Efforts to rescue North Korean defectors and detained humanitarian aid workers 

LFNKR has expanded its collaboration with NGOs and aid workers in China, South Korea, Laos, Thailand, Burma, the USA, England, France, Germany, and Belgium.

Last year, LFNKR stepped up its efforts to develop new routes via which North Korean refugees may escape to third countries, and it secured more “underground railroad” routes in addition to those already established.

In a concerted effort to press the Chinese government to improve its policy toward North Korean refugees, several NGOs now working to rescue North Korean refugees have begun strongly urging that the 2008 Olympics be transferred away from Beijing as the host city. This campaign must be expanded. It is currently underway only in the US, South Korea, and Japan, but should be expanded to many other nations around the world.

  A.

Efforts to gain the release of humanitarian aid workers detained in China

LFNKR continues its activities to achieve the release of humanitarian aid workers arrested and detained in China, primarily through lobbying activities and collaboration with other NGOs. The aid workers include Choi Yong-hun, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison for attempting to help North Korean refugees out of China by boat in Yantai (imprisoned since January 2003), An Chung-hak (detained in Yanji, China since February 2005), and Phillip J. Buck (detained in Yanji, China since May 2005). All were arrested for helping North Korean refugees. 
— Choi Yong-hun link (Read more here)
— An Chung-hak link (Read more here)
— Phillip J. Buck (Read more here)  

  B.

Securing the safety and protection of North Korean refugees

    1.

Securing necessary shelters

During the last fiscal year, LFNKR avoided adding large shelters, due to safety considerations. Instead, shelters were smaller and more widely dispersed.

    2.

Supply of clothing 

LFNKR supplied a total of 500 sets of winter clothing and 450 sets of summer clothing.

    3.

Supply of food

Through its clandestine local network, LFNKR supplied a total of 40 tons of rice to the North Koreans hiding in China as well as to some needy people in North Korea. One major distribution network in North Korea was discovered by the authorities, leading to a severe 20-ton curtailment of rice distribution

    4.

Other 

LFNKR has directly provided money equivalent to a few month’s living expenses to a total of 11 families. This money was secretly taken back into North Korea where 28 near-starving family members waited.

II.

Medical aid 

Medical expenses were paid to cover hospitalization and treatment of North Koreans suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, hepatitis, and injuries resulting from torture.

III.

Foster Parent Program 

The Chinese government continues to intensify efforts to arrest and repatriate North Koreans. At the same time, it is systematically arresting and indicting humanitarian aid workers. This has seriously interfered with LFNKR foster parents’ visits to China to meet with their foster children. LFNKR has, however, worked out a number of ways to maintain communication with the local staff members to assure the flow of updated information on the situations of all its foster children. Currently, 35 North Korean children are in the foster parent program.

From November 8 to 10, 2004, the North Korean Genocide Exhibition was held at the Diet Members’ Hall in Seoul. Twelve members of LFNKR, including several foster parents, visited Seoul to participate in the event. While there, they met with some of their former foster children, who had previously stayed at Shelter YAN-01 in China and had reached South Korea only the previous year. A TV crew videotaped the meeting with the former foster children. The footage was entitled, “After Burying My Parents, Who Starved to Death.” LFNKR has sent the videotape to every foster parent in Japan.

Last year’s annual report on the 7th General Meeting stated that one major objective would be to bring those foster children aged 16 or older out of China. Once past 16, they find it extremely difficult to remain in China because the authorities are increasingly strict about the legal documents required for admission to higher education. In the spring of 2005, LFNKR brought the most recent foster child out of China to a safe place, where he will now be able to decide his own future.

In May 2005, LFNKR received an urgent request to help one of the children it had sheltered in the past, and his mother. Under the foster parent program, LFNKR immediately formed a rescue team and helped both mother and son to successfully reach South Korea. The boy had been seized at a shelter in China and sent back to North Korea in the spring of 2001, when he was 15 years old, but had been able to escape once again into China.

The LFNKR foster parent program provided emergency medical aid for two of its foster children when they suffered acute carbon monoxide poisoning from a malfunctioning heater. Fortunately, they fully recovered with no aftereffects.

LFNKR invited three former foster children to Japan to participate in a 3-day joint international conference between parliamentary members and NGOs held on August 1, 2005. On July 30, they talked about their own experiences before and after they escaped from North Korea. The audience was held breathless as the children told of their hazardous escape from China.  (Read profiles of the 3 children here)

All members of LFNKR were proud when one of the former foster children, now settled in South Korea, passed the entrance examination to the prestigious Sogang University in South Korea.

IV.

Helping North Korean defectors settle in South Korea and Japan 

During the past fiscal year, LFNKR has successfully helped a number of North Korean refugees, including several former foster children, to escape from China into South Korea via third-country routes. LFNKR has been working together with the Korean Residents’ Union in Japan to help the North Korean defectors complete all legal procedures, find housing and jobs, and all other necessary details. LFNKR is also providing them with private tutoring to learn Japanese.

V.

International activities

  A.

When 29 North Koreans dashed into the Japanese school in Beijing on Sept. 1 2004 year, and when 8 North Koreans ran into the American school in Shanghai on Sept. 27, all seeking asylum, LFNKR immediately sent out requests urging the Japanese and US governments to protect them and give them safe passage to wherever they wished to settle. They were allowed to go to South Korea.

In October, LFNKR sent a request to the Ministry of Canada, urging them to protect the 44 North Koreans who had sought asylum in the Canadian Embassy in Beijing. LFNKR received in March 2005 a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada stating that his government had persuaded the Chinese government to safely release them to South Korea. 

  B.

When 12 LFNKR members went to Seoul in November last year, they visited more than 60 Grand National Party lawmakers to seek their support for NK refugees and asked their help in gaining immediate release of Choi Yong-hun, now serving a 5-year sentence. This led to the visit of three Korean lawmakers to the prison in Yantai where Choi Yong-hun has been jailed. They protested the inhumane treatment of Choi to the prison warden, and called for improved conditions. (Read more here)

  C.

In March 2005, LFNKR produced a 13-minute English version DVD of secretly taped footage showing public executions in North Korea. This DVD was submitted to the UNCHR meeting held in Geneva in March. The DVD was recognized as valuable material demonstrating evidence of human rights violations in North Korea. The footage was subsequently broadcast by major media, including BBC, CNN, and FOX TV. (Read more here

  D.

Kato Hiroshi, the Secretary-General of LFNKR, along with two other members participated in the North Korea Freedom Week held in Washington DC in April 2005. During their stay, they met with Jim Butterworth and agreed on a joint effort to produce a version of his documentary “Seoul Train” with Japanese subtitles. The version with Japanese subtitles was first screened during the Lawmakers-NGO joint international conference event. (Read more here)  

VI.

Seminars

LFNKR presented several seminars, including those attended by local staff members responsible for the shelters in China and former foster children. LFNKR also dispatched members to junior high schools to present lectures on the current situation faced by North Korean refugees.