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First Meeting of IPCNKR

Group Targets Refugee Camp
in 3rd Country for NK Defectors

Click here for list of member lawmakers from 5 nations

Report by Masaharu Nakagawa, April 16, 2003

On April 16, 2003, lawmakers from the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Mongolia and Japan gathered in Seoul, South Korea, to hold the inaugural meeting of the long-sought International Parliamentarians' Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights (IPCNKR).

The major objective of IPCNKR is to establish a refugee camp where North Korean people fleeing their own country will be able to survive. The refugee camp should, at the minimum, protect defectors from repatriation by Chinese or Russian authorities to North Korea, where they face persecution or torture in slave labor camps.

Reports put the number of refugees hiding in the border area of China at 200,000 to 300,000. Many of these are ethnic Koreans born in Japan.

One of my associates, Mr. Hwang Woo Yea, a Korean legislator, has been working intensively on this issue with other Korean lawmakers. I understand that it is not easy for members of the Korean parliament to criticize China for their behavior regarding the human rights issue, nor to apply political pressure on Kim Jong-il. We, from Japan, as well as lawmakers from the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere have joined hands to support our Korean counterparts in forming this international parliamentarian group. Our united intention is to cause China formally to certify the people who have defected from North Korea as refugees and to secure their protection. The inauguration of IPCNKR is a strong move in the right direction.

I proposed at the inaugural meeting that we organize an international lawmakers' survey team and dispatch it to the border area in China. The legislators from the United States and the United Kingdom immediately agreed with my survey team proposal. However, Mr. Hwang Woo Yea was more hesitant, explaining, "I'm afraid that the Chinese authorities will block us from entering China." The responses seem to reflect the policies of the respective nations. They requested, "Mr. Nakagawa, you take initiative in carrying this project forward." In response I am making preparations toward dispatching the survey team, probably in May or June. The members also suggested that Japan would be an appropriate candidate venue for holding the next annual meeting. I willingly accepted the suggestion.

I am delighted that full-scale parliamentary diplomacy is finally growing. I hope that this initiative will save the lives of many North Korean refugees.

Masaharu Nakagawa
Member of the House of Representatives,
The Democratic Party of Japan

Masaharu Nakagawa, in January 2003, visits the border area where many North Korean Refugees flee into China. Here the temperature was -30 degrees C at the Tumen River.