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Letter to UNHCR

Parliamentarians Petition the UN

Hon. Ruud Lubbers
High Commissioner
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Petition for Rescue

China will soon hold the final appeal trial for the humanitarian aid workers and the journalist who were arrested on January 18 for attempting to help North Korean refugees flee into China.

They have been held in detention since their arrest several months ago.

You may have already seen reports that on May 22, the Chinese court sentenced Mr. Choi Yong-hun (S. Korean) to 5 years in prison and levied a fine of 30,000RMB.

Mr. Seok Jae-hyun (S. Korean) received a sentence of 2 years in prison and a fine of 5,000RMB, while Mr. Park Yong-ho (Korean Chinese) received a 3-year sentence and a fine of 10,000RMB.

The defendants' lawyers, who filed appeals on June 2, said that the appeal hearing is usually held about a month after the appeal is filed. Please note that this appeal will be their last chance in court.

Jubilee Campaign, an American NGO dedicated to the legal defense of human rights, had generously been working with Life Funds for North Korean Refugees (LFNKR), a NGO based in Japan, on a formal petition indicating the unfair and arbitrary detention of the defendants by the Chinese authorities. Jubilee Campaign submitted the petition to The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the week of June 23 (

On June 17, we sent a letter via Express Mail Service to China's President Hu Jintao, asking him to recognize North Korean defectors, who clearly deserve the refugee status, and to immediately release the humanitarian aid workers and the journalist.

We have also been engaged in a signature campaign calling for a fair trial for the defendants and also to provide Mr. Choi with immediate access to his medications. Mr. Choi Yong-hun is suffering from diabetes, hypertension and asthma, but he has not yet received the necessary medications, and his health condition is deteriorating. Please listen to his daughters' plea for help: More than 4,000 people have already signed the petition in South Korea, and about 550 people have signed it in Japan.

UNHCR, being an international organization, holds the key to rescuing these abused people. We ask UNHCR to firmly and actively stand by them and to commit full and immediate effort to their rescue. Also, we must not forget the plight of the North Korean refugees arrested along with the aid workers and the journalist.

I have heard that you have agreed to hold a meeting on North Korean refugee issues in conjunction with LFNKR. We full-heartedly welcome this agreement. I am confident that this meeting would contribute greatly towards the resolution of the humanitarian problems regarding North Korean refugees.

LFNKR is currently preparing an international conference on these issues, to be held in Tokyo or Beijing. There, we are going to propose a joint on-site fact-finding tour to the northeastern region of the People’s Republic of China with officers of UNHCR and a preliminary survey tour to Mongolia for establishing a refugee camp. We will also urge the Chinese government to observe the international standard (The Principle of Non-Refoulement stipulated in Article 33 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees) and not to deport back the North Korean defectors to North Korea.

Accordingly, we emphatically invite you to attend the conference and we are looking forward to receiving your generous reply.

July 28th, 2003

International Parliamentarians' Coalition
for the North Korean Refugees and Human
Rights (IPCNKR), Co-founder

Masaharu NAKAGAWA,
Member of the House of Representatives of JAPAN