Update on NK Boat People & Humanitarian Aid Workers
Most Were Repatriated to North Korea
Grandmother Tortured to Death
March 28, 2003
A report reached Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
(LFNKR) on March 28, regarding the North Korean refugees and
the three humanitarian aid workers who were arrested by the
Chinese authorities in Yantai, Shandong Province as they
were about to leave China by boat in January this year.
The report comes from Mr. Kim, one of the group who managed
to avoid the repatriation.
During the regular press conference held by the Chinese
Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately after the incident,
the media officer said that the incident would be dealt with
on a humanitarian basis in accordance with domestic and
The reported facts, however, differ drastically from the
media officer's statement. Several of the refugees have
been forcibly returned to North Korea and at least one of
them was tortured to death.
We of the LFNKR strongly protest the Chinese government's
inhumane treatment of the North Korean refugees and
humanitarian aid workers as well as its disregard for and
violation of international law.
According to Kim's report, around 7 A.M. on January 18, the
Security officers in Yantai detained Mr. Choi Yong-hun, a
Korean NGO humanitarian aid worker, Mr. Seok Jae-hyun , a
journalist, and a total of 15 males and females who came
from Wangjing, Yanji, Tumen and Longjing in Jilin Province.
After interrogation, all but six of the detained people were
sent from Dandong in Liaoning Province to Sinuiju in North
Korea in three groups on Jan. 25, 27 and 30. The six not
sent to Sinuiju were Choi Yong-hun, Seok Jae-hyun, Park
Yong-ho, Kim Myong Chol, Chu Hun Kuk and another Korean
The thirty people who were repatriated included an old
woman, Kim Un Kum (73), and returnees to North Korea from
Japan, Ko Jong Mi (44) and her daughter, Lee Yu Son (22).
This report was brought to us by Mr. Kim, a man in his late
thirties from Hamgyongbukto, who formerly worked at a
hospital. He took Kim Un Kum (73) from Myongchon,
Hamgyongbukto in North Korea on December 23, 2002, and
accompanied other people to Yanji, Dalian and Yantai. The
group included 11 persons, namely, Kim Un Kum (73), Kim
Myong Chol (39), Park Ran Hee (40), Kim Kum Ok (44), Kim
Hyang Hwa (21), Kim Son Hee (43), Be Kwang Myong (18), Pee
Okk Ju (16), Chu Hun Kuk (48), Sin Yong Hee (18) and Kim
Yong ho (35).
The report includes testimony that torture and violence were
used during the interrogations by the Chinese police.
In the boat people incident, the Chinese police sent back a
total of 30 people to Sinuiju, North Korea where they were
interrogated again individually. After the interrogations,
they are sent to the temporary detention centers located in
Kimchek, Hamhung and Onsong in the provinces from which they
originally came, and interrogated yet again to set
sentencing and punishment. Depending on the sentences, they
could be sent to people's courts, labor camps, correctional
institutions or political prison camps, or even publicly
executed. No one sent to a political prison camp ever comes
out alive. If they fail to fulfill a given daily quota,
they are not allowed to rest until the quota is reached. In
every case, severe punishment awaits them.
Below is the remainder of the report by Kim, who managed to
escape the repatriation:
Around 6:30 P.M. on Jan. 17, border guards carrying video
cameras rushed into our hiding place. They held me down and
began a search of the house. After the search, the border
guards put us in their vehicle to take us to their station
in Yantai, a drive of about 20 minutes. Pee Okk Ju and the
grandma remained in the house. When we arrived at the
border guard station, we found Be Kwang Myong and the
captain there. After about an hour and a half, Kim Yong Ho,
Choun Hyang Hwa and Be Kwang Myong's mother were surrounded
and arrested by thirty border guards.
At dawn on Jan. 17, Be Kwang Myong and the captain, who were
asleep in the boat, were arrested and detained in a Han
Chinese house. That same morning, Park came to the boat,
where he was arrested and also locked in the same house
where Be Kwang Myong and the captain were being held. Next,
they were sent to the border guard station in Yantai.
Park yielded to the beatings and threats by the border
guards and confessed where we were hiding and told them the
schedule of Choi Yong-hun. A meal followed the
interrogation at the border guard station on Jan. 19, then
we were pushed into three vehicles and sent to a lockup
where the males were placed in two cells and the females in
two other cells. Then, Choi Yong-hun, Seok Jae-hyun, Park
Yong-ho, the captain and Chu Hun Kuk were handcuffed and put
in a separate cell. At this time, Choi Yong-hun told us
that we did not have to be afraid of anything, because
people in South Korea already knew about this incident. The
border guards handcuffed the North Korean people and sent
them to a lockup; they were not even allowed to put on their
When we were interrogated, we pleaded with the interrogators
to let us go to South Korea, because we would be killed if
we were sent back to North Korea. The Yantai border guard
chief responded that they would not send us back to North
Korea. This turned out to be a lie.
Daily details following our arrest:
Jan. 23: Nine of the eleven with whom I stayed were
interrogated (Grandma and Pee Okk Ju were not). Chu Hun Kuk
encouraged us by saying that the people in South Korea know
about us. In the evening, the returnees to North Korea
from Japan, Ko Jong Mi (44) and her daughter, Lee Yu Son
(22) learned about us, and gave themselves up. They were
put in the women's cell, and they told us that there had
been an uproar since the world found out what happened to
The last I heard, Kim Un Kum (73) who was sent back to North
Korea had been tortured to death.
Jan. 24: At around 8:00 P.M., the Yantai border guard chief
had us separated into three buses, with two plainclothes
guards for each of us. They took us to Yantai Port, and
placed us in a boat bound for Dalian at 10:00 P.M.
Jan. 25: At 4:40 A.M., we arrived at Dalian. Under the
supervision of the chief again, we were separated into three
buses. Border guards driving a Volvo led our buses and we
were accompanied by more than 100 plainclothes guards. It
took 5 hours and 40 min. before we arrived at the Dandong
border guard station on the bank opposite Sinuiju, North
Korea at 10:40 A.M. During the transfer by bus from Yantai
to Dalian, the returnee (the mother) to North Korea from
Japan swallowed buttons and her ring in an attempt to kill
herself. The escort guards totally ignored her though she
was in great agony. They took her to Dandong.
At the Dandong border guard station, our hands and legs were
cuffed and then we were sent up to the second-floor lockup.
We were separated into male and female groups and strip
searched. After inspections, they removed all buttons and
zippers from our cloths and pushed us, still naked, into
cells. They called us out one by one for interrogation.
The interrogators told us that we would face serious trouble
if we were to sent back to North Korea, because we were
arrested while trying to reach South Korea. They told us to
fill the charge sheets with brief details, skipping the
description of our attempt to escape to South Korea.
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees
Representative: Kenkichi Nakadaira
A-101 Nishi Kata Hyteru
2-2-8 Nishi Kata, Bunkyo-ku
Tokyo, Japan 113-0024
Tel / Fax +81-3-3815-8127