Search Website




About Our Group

Our Japanese Website

Frequently Asked Questions

What We Are Doing

Contact Us


Aid Workers, Newsman On Trial
But Who's Noticing?

Mass Media Needed to Focus World Attention

World Community Urged to Call for Release of Aid Workers and Newsman On Trial in China

On January 18 this year, a journalist and two aid workers were arrested in Yantai, China along with a large group of North Korean refugee boat people they were attempting to help. The three are Seok Jae-hyun (Korean journalist), Choi Yong-hun (Korean humanitarian aid worker) and Park Myong-ho (Korean-Chinese humanitarian aid worker).

As part of our efforts to win their release, Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR) invited the wives of Mr. Seok and Mr. Choi from their homes in Seoul to a press conference in Tokyo on February 13.

LFNKR has steadily urged the international community to call for the release of these three. This call was repeated at the International Conference on North Korean Human Rights held in Prague at the beginning of March and the Washington DC Rally on March 22. The Chinese authorities, however, still refuse to release them.

The mental and physical anguish of these detainees and their families is a source of great concern. When the three detainees were tried in open court in Yantai, Shandong Province on April 22, we expected them to be released. The trial, however, was only a public hearing, which concluded with an announcement that a verdict would be handed down after the middle of May.

No journalists attended the public hearing, though it was held in open court. LFNKR members expressed both surprise and disappointment that no Korean journalists or NGO-related people showed up at the hearing.

Have the Korean journalist, Jae-hyun, and the Korean humanitarian aid worker, Choi Yong-hun, been so easily forgotten?

There has been criticism that the defection plan for the boat people in Yantai was reckless. On the other hand, this event attracted the attention of mass media at home and abroad, providing an opening to widely publicize the plight of North Korean refugees. Japan Amnesty for the first time issued a call for an Urgent Action to release the detained North Korean refugees and aid workers.

It is imperative to demonstrate clearly that the mass media of the world, and all NGOs as well as other parties interested in the human rights of North Korean refugees are continuing to watch this matter. Failing this, the Chinese authorities could feel free to gloss over this matter in silence, never releasing the defendants who were working for human rights. We must not allow these humanitarian aid workers to be buried in the darkness. It would be the same as forsaking the North Korean refugees themselves.

We hope that all media in China and all NGOs with an interest in human rights will make a showing at the second session of the trial.

Kenkichi Nakadaira
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Contact Us