to Press Conference
Boat People Arrested in China
of 62 Repatriated
to North Korea
As a result of persistent efforts to
track down the 62 people arrested in the January 2003 incident
in Yantai, China, LFNKR (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees)
has gathered details on the boat people involved.
This information includes details on each of
the persons involved in the incident and their present whereabouts.
Below is a brief summary.
A total of 62 people were involved in the
boat people plan. We have confirmed that 31 of them were repatriated
to North Korea. Four avoided the mass arrest and are believed
to be hiding in China. Eight are missing. Nine have reached
the safety of South Korea through the aid of various NGOs.
The first group of people in the original
plan to escape by boat included 10 North Korean refugees guided
by Park Yong Chol left Yanji on Dec. 23; they arrived in Yantai
on Dec. 26.
The second group included 9 North Korean refugees
led by Choi Yong-hun (South Korean aid worker) and Seok Jae-hyun
(South Korean journalist). They left on January 17, 2003, changed
to a boat at Dalian and arrived in Yantai early on the morning
of January 18.
The third group included 4 North Korean refugees.
This group was led by the captain, Park Yong-chol. They left
Dalian on January 17 by boat and arrived in Yantai at 3:00AM
on January 18.
The second and third groups were arrested
upon arrival at Yantai by the Chinese authorities.
The Chinese spokesman officially announced at
the press conference on January 23 that China would not repatriate
the detained North Korean people and would treat them humanely
according to both domestic and international laws.
The truth, however, is different. China separated
the arrested North Korean refugees into three batches, and secretly
sent the first batch of 19 from Yantai to Dalian by boat at midnight
of January 24, then from Dalian to Dandong by bus. On January
25, these 19 people were handed over to the national security
dept. of Sinuiju, North Korea.
The second batch was shipped back on January
27, and the third batch was returned on January 30.
The above facts were revealed during interviews
with Kim Kwang Myong (20), Yang Yong Ho (42) and Yang Gum Soon
(15) who were in the first batch of 19 sent back to North Korea
on Jan. 25. They managed to re-escape into China where LFNKR and
Durihana Mission helped them to escape to a safe place.
Further testimony has been recorded from Kim
Myong Chol (39), Yun Dong Geun (52) and Bee Myung Ok (50). The
latter two are the son-in-law and the daughter of Kim Un Kum (72)
who died during detention after she was sent back to North Korea.
For more details, please refer to excerpts from
the interview with three of the witnesses and the brief backgrounder
on the witnesses at the web pages:
of Escapee Interview
& INfo on Witnesses"
If China still insists that they have
not repatriated the North Korean Refugees, China is obliged to
tell the international community exactly where these people are
In reply to an inquiry from the South Korean
government, China claimed that they have not sent the refugees
back. This is a betrayal by China of South Korea. It is beyond
belief that the South Korean government would fail to lodge a
protest, knowing that China is not telling the truth.
Regarding others arrested by China, Choi Yong-hun,
Kim Hee-tae, and Choi Bong-il, who are South Korean humanitarian
aid workers, still remain in detention after 8 months, 14 months
and 18 months, respectively. The South Korean government should
commit itself more seriously to rescuing its own people.
Meantime, Japanese humanitarian aid workers,
arrested under the same charges were released within days. Hiroshi
Kato of this NGO, arrested in October, 2002 was returned to Japan
after 7 days. Fumiaki Yamada of HRNK, detained in August 2003,
was released after 3 weeks.
China appears to have a clear double standard
in its application of the law.
UNHCR has a moral and legal obligation to enforce
its special privilege according to the Agreement with China when
they opened their Beijing Office by immediately demanding access
to the North Korean refugees in China.
China has obviously breached the Convention
on Refugees which it signed, and is continuing its unforgivable
breach of humanitarianism and denial of human rights.
Considering China’s place in the world
spotlight as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games, there are those
who question that country’s fitness to serve as host of
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees