[Updated below with a report on the Congressional briefing. There was some very chilling testimony today.]
[Update, 4/26: Some great news about refugees in Thailand, and a video link to one of Tuesday’s events.]
First, please digg this post, and please tell your friends to do the same.
For those who don’t know why this issue needs more attention — including yours — please witness Camp 22 and its horrors, learn the grim fate of refugees sent back to North Korea today, and read how Kim Jong Il splurged on weapons and personal luxuries while two million of his people starved to death.
Click for a schedule of events, and how you can help >>
This year’s events are will interest both scholars and activists. All events are sponsored by the North Korea Freedom Coalition, a non-sectarian, non-partisan organization (contributions are tax deductible). No matter who or where you are, you can participate without spending a penny by e-mailing the following addresses to demand humane treatment of North Korean refugees:
- firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel.: (202) 328-2500 (Why should you do this?)
- email@example.com / Tel.: (202) 332-6416 (Why should you do this?)
- firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel.: (202) 944-3600 (Why should you do this?)
- http://www.dynamic-korea.com/embassy/meet.php / (202) 939-5600 (Why should you do this?)
Your message can be as simple as this, and feel free to cut and paste. Put “North Korean human rights” in the subject line:
Respect international law and give asylum to North Korean refugees. The refugees you return to North Korea will be executed or sent to die in concentration camps. They are fleeing because they fear political persecution, and because the North Korean government is refusing international food aid, spending its money on weapons, and starving them.
And let’s not forget these, either:
If you do e-mail the White House, I strongly recommend e-mailing the Vice President’s office, too, since that one is more likely to be read. Be sure to mention the North Korean refugees our own Shenyang Consulate turned away in violation of federal law.
Confirmed Events for North Korea Freedom Week 2007
Monday, April 23 – Thursday, April 26
Open Daily 9 am to 5 pm: North Korea Genocide Exhibit
- Time: Open Daily 9 am to 5 pm
- note below: Special VIP Ribbon Cutting Event Tuesday, April 24 at noon
- location: Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, 201 F Street, NE (near Union Station), Washington, D.C.
- organizers: Sin U Nam, Moon Gook Han, Nathan Hill
- sponsor: International Coalition to Save the North Korean Slaves
Monday, April 23
2-3:30 pm: Panel on Failure to Protect: A Call to the UN Security Council to Act on North Korea
- Confirmed speakers: Soon-Kyung Hong, Chairman of the North Korean Defectors Association, DLA Piper Attorney Jared Genser, and Debra-Liang Fenton, Executive Director of the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
- location: DLA Piper, 1200 19th Street, NW, Washington, DC
- organizer: Debra Liang-Fenton;
- sponsor: U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, DLA Piper
- RSVP: email@example.com
Tuesday, April 24
9:30-11:30 am: Panel: INFORMATION IS POWER: The Future of Radio Broadcasting Into North Korea
- Confirmed speakers: Kim Seung Min (Director of Free North Korea Radio), Ambassador Mark Palmer of Freedom House, John Fox of I-Media, Blanquita Cullum of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Libby Liu of Radio Free Asia and Jay Henderson of Voice of America
- location: Freedom House Ballroom, 1319 18th Street, NW, Wash, D.C.(Dupont Circle MetroSouthside)
- organizer: Jessica Barnes; sponsors: Freedom House, Broadcasting Board of Governors and Free North Korea Radio. RSVP by April 20: Barnes@freedomhouse.org
12:00 noon: VIP Ribbon Cutting Ceremony: North Korea Genocide Exhibit
- Confirmed speakers (so far): Congressman Ed Royce, Huh Kwang-il, President of the Defector’s Association for Unification, Kang Chul Hwan and Ahn Hyuk, founders of the Democracy Network Against the NK Gulag, Teruaki Masumoto and Yoicha Shimada of the Japanese Rescue Movement
- location: Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, 201 F Street, NE near Union Station
- organizers: Sin U Nam, Moon Gook Han, Nathan Hill
- sponsor: International Coalition to Save the North Korean Slaves
3-5 pm: Panel to discuss “Who’s Afraid of North Korean Regime Collapse”?
- Confirmed speakers: Nick Eberstadt of AEI, Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch, Bruce Bechtol
- location: American Enterprise Institute, 1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036
- organizer: Nicholas Eberstadt, Chris Griffin sponsor: American Enterprise Institute
3:30-5 pm: Congressional Hearing on China’s Treatment of North Korean Refugees and Humanitarian Workers chaired by Congressman Tom Lantos
- Confirmed speakers: Congressman Tom Lantos (opening remarks), former jailed humanitarian workers Phillip Buck and Choi Young Hun, former refugees in China Lee Sung Gyu, and Chiba Yomiko(invited) Suzanne Scholte
- location: 2200 or 2250 Rayburn House Office Building
- organizer: Hans Hogrefe sponsor: Congressman Tom Lantos, Congressional Human Rights Caucus
Thursday, April 26
3-5 pm: Panel on Religious Persecution in North Korea, followed by a reception
- Confirmed speakers: Michael Cromartie of USCRIF, Congressman Trent Franks, North Korean defectors and now church leaders Eom Myong-Heui and Sung Gyu Lee, Open Doors President and CEO Carl Moeller
- location: The National Press Club, 529 14th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20045
- Holeman Lounge, Reception following in 1st Amendment Room
- Please RSVP your name, title, organization by Apr 13 to firstname.lastname@example.org
- organizer: Lindsay Vessey sponsor: Open Doors
Friday, April 27
12:00 Noon: Capitol Hill Lunch Forum: “Promoting Freedom and Human Rights for North Korea” with All Visiting North Korean Defectors
- Confirmed: Leaders of all the North Korean defector led NGOs working for human rights in North Korea including Hong Soon-Kyung, Huh Kwang-il, Kim Seung-Min, Kang Chul Hwan, Ahn Hyok, Park Sang Hak, Lee Min-Bok, Eom Myong-Heui, Kang Hak-Sil, Lee Sung-Gyu, and very special guests Phillip Buck, Choi Yong Hun, Moon Kook Han, Teruaki Masumoto, Yoichi Shimada, and Fumiyo Saitoh
- location: B-339 Rayburn House Office Building, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.
- Please RVSP (Required) by COB Apr 26 to email@example.com (Lunch included at $30)
- organizer: Suzanne Scholte Honorary Congressional Host: Congressman Ed Royce
- sponsor: Defense Forum Foundation
7 pm: Special Prayer Service for North Korea and the North Korean Defectors
- location: The Falls Church, 115 East Fairfax Street, Falls Church, VA 22046 www.thefallschurch.org
- organizer: Pastor Heemoon Lee and NKFC Prayer Committee, PSALT
- sponsor: North Korea Freedom Coalition
Saturday, April 28
11:30 am: North Korea Freedom Day demonstration
- Music, Program starts at 12:00 noon International Protest Against China’s Violent Treatment of North Korean Refugees
- location: Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, 2300 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC and their PRC embassies and consulates around the world; city and country organizers include: PSALT (New York), Gail Beilitz (Houston), Lindsay Vessey,Youngshok Choi and Tom Byun (Los Angeles), Paul Davis (Chicago); Sin U Nam, Jeff Park, James Ham, Pastor Heemoon Lee, Suzanne Scholte (Washington, D.C.), Marianne Bruning and Annechien Weening (Netherlands) Open Doors (Switzerland and Germany); Willie Fautre (Brussels), Abraham Lee and Peter Jung (Seoul)….
- sponsor: North Korea Freedom Coalition, Open Doors, International Campaign to Block the Repatriation of North Korean Refugees
Update: Corrected Digg link here. Thank you.
Update 4/24: Before she was the only survivor of the Yantai incident, in which China sent approximately 100 North Korean refugees to die in North Korean prisons and labor camps, Yomiko Chiba was a schoolteacher in North Korea, the daughter of privileged and trusted party members who immigrated from Japan. Chiba’s loyalty was undisturbed until the day in 1995 when the people began to wander in from the countryside, emaciated and homeless, some from as far away as North Hamgyeong Province.
Soon, each morning revealed a fresh crop of dead in the streets and fields, and Chiba and her students were impressed into four squads to dispose of them. By day, they picked the dead up where they lie, covered the bodies, and hid them in a vacant building that would serve as a provisional morgue for the 35 days of their grisly, exhausting duty. By night, Chiba and her students moved the bodies to burial pits in the fields outside of town, buried them, and planted grass to conceal what lay beneath. They dared not refuse this exhausting labor, and admittedly, Chiba and her students soon stopped thinking of whether these “logs,” as she referred to them, had been men, women, or childen.
Thus was the faith of a loyal believer broken, and that may have played a role in Ms. Chiba’s decision to help a friend leave for Japan. Implicated by association, she lost her job, her home, and her position of trust, and was sent to the countryside. Finally, in December 2000, she crossed the border into China. There were many hardships there, she said, and we can only imagine what those must have been. The worst of these began this way:
Among the witnesses are Chiba Yomiko, the only known survivor of the Yantai Boat incident of 2003 when over 86 North Korean refugees attempted to reach freedom by boat. All were rounded up and repatriated against their will to North Korea. She will be testifying in Congress on Tuesday, joined by the humanitarian worker involved with the rescue attempt, Choi Young Hun. Choi spent nearly 4 years in a Chinese prison for trying to help the refugees. Both will be testifying for the first time of the horrific treatment of North Korea refugees at a hearing being chaired by Congressman Tom Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Not all of this is true. It wasn’t a hearing; it was a briefing. Lantos wasn’t there, nor were any Democratic members, but I’ll get to that.
The report I cite here also says 86 refugees were sent back, but Ms. Chiba referred to a second boat that put the total at just over 100. Under interrogation by North Korean police, Ms. Chiba stuck to her story that she was not associated with the rest of them. They had had contact with foreign missionaries, which doomed them. So had she, but he denied it, and it was the survivor’s guilt that broke her to tears after all of the horrors she described. She credits sticking to her story, even under severe torture, with her survival. That torture, along with wounds she inflicted on herself to forestall her repatriation, left her covered with infections and unable to keep her swollen tongue inside her mouth. Other injuries, I simply won’t describe here. When Ms. Chiba was released, she claims, one of the guards who had tortured her horribly said that the others were sent to a place from which they would never return.
Some didn’t live that long. One grandmother would ask each day to go to South Korea, not to embarrass the Dear Leader, but to see her daughter one last time before she died. One day, the guards called her number, and she never came back to the cell. One nine year-boy became so ill and emaciated that his eyes turned white. When his mother pleaded with the guards to treat him, they carted her off and brought her back an hour later with her face swollen. The boy and his father were rumored to have been sent to a labor camp. Somehow, Ms. Chiba was released, escaped, and managed to tell the tale.
That is what China knows happens to the refugees it sends back to North Korea. China doesn’t care, but it still gets a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, because the U.N. believes it “upholds the highest standards in the protection of human rights. And, it gets to host the Olympics.
Perhaps the saddest part of the event was that just one member, Rep. Ed Royce, attended. Ditto the North Korean Holocaust Exhibition. You can’t make a cause bipartisan if one party refuses to care about it. Otherwise, the small hearing room was packed.
No, this could be sadder: the State Department seems inclined to remove North Korea from the terror list after all, claiming that they’re unaware of recent North Korean involvement in terrorism, and that bygones are bygones. It’s unimaginable that even State would manipulate something as close to the core of our national security interests as state sponsorship of terrorism, especially when you consider the basis for that political motivation: an agreement whose every term North Korea has violated. Unlike a North Korean decision to let in a few inspectors or suspend operations at a decrepit reactor, a terror-free certification would probably be extremely difficult for us to reverse.
Staffer Dennis Halpin, whom history will remember as the best friend the North Korean people will ever have, may have had the foresight to block this incalculably ill-advised move. His new boss, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, asked the Congressional Research Service to refresh its investigation of North Korean involvement in acts of terrorism. The report was released today, and Mr. Halpin gracious agreed to provide me a copy. I’ll publish it as soon as I have it. The report supposedly documents politically motivated murders and kidnappings as recently as 2005.
But there is hope, too. Today, word comes from NGO’s that three orphans held in a jail in Laos have been freed. I do not know if this is all of those held in Laos; when I find out more, I’ll tell you. If you called the Lao Embassy, reach around and pat yourself on the back for helping to save the lives of three innocents.
He who saves one life saves the world entire.
Update 4/25: Nathan Hill reports on the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the North Korean Genocide Exhibition. Hopefully, he’ll have video later.
Update 4/26: Many thanks to reader usinkorea for forwarding this link to the AEI program on “Who’s Afraid of Regime Collapse.” (Link will not work with Firefox.) It was scheduled at the same time as the panel I describe above, so I had to make a difficult choice. Now, I can watch and add observations.
The great news I refer to above is this:
North Korean refugees held at a detention center in Thailand ended their hunger strike after they were notified they will be allowed to go to South Korea, the South Korean embassy in Bangkok said Thursday.
About 400 North Korean refugees at the detention center had launched the hunger strike last week after Thai authorities abruptly delayed sending some 20 of them to South Korea. [Yonhap]
If you called the Thai Embassy, thank you. So can we now expect another mass airlift?
Update 4/28: Unlike previous rallies, which were held at the Capitol, this year’s took place at the Chinese Embassy on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC. This year, just about 80 people attended, which probably includes a modest number of media ““ YTN and some Japanese media, with no American media in sight. It was a smaller group than last years, though perhaps a slightly more energetic one, and mostly people who showed up last year, and the year before that. Judging by the number of honking cars and pedestrians who stopped to talk, there was more interest by those who happened to be passing by. One Chinese diplomat in a black sedan pulled slowly past us and into the garage under the Embassy, but few of the demonstrators took notice, and vice versa.
The events for this year were more interesting than last year’s — they were more scholarly and full of much interesting new information. That’s why its especially unfortunate that I had to miss so many of them because of other demands on my time. Ms. Yomiko Chiba stood out as the single most effective refugee testimonial I’ve heard in this year or previous years. I wish more people would hear what she had to say.
Overall, however, I’m left with the impression that we’re not growing, our message isn’t propogating, and those of us in attendance were mainly the die-hards who refuse to give up, notwithstanding the fact that the news media don’t care, and never will care about the atrocities of tyrants who happen to hate America. Most noticeably this year was a noticeable decline in interest from Congress, and from the Bush Administration, which threw the North Korean people under the bus and betrayed the implicit promise it made so recently. There will be other elections, and there will be other chances to get this message out, but it will take determination, and it will take the help of a lot more people.
Update 4/29: Well, it’s something:
Statement by the President on North Korea Freedom Week
I send greetings to all those observing North Korea Freedom Week. Those living in North Korea regrettably know firsthand the meaning of deprivation of freedom. I have met in the Oval Office with some of the courageous few who have managed to escape from the country. I have heard firsthand accounts of their suffering in North Korea and of their dangerous journeys to freedom. And I have seen how they now live in freedom’s light. We will continue to strengthen our commitment to bring freedom to all repressed peoples. I believe the 21st century will be freedom’s century for all Koreans. One day every citizen of that peninsula will live in dignity, freedom, and prosperity at home and in peace with their neighbors abroad. Until that day comes, we will not rest in our efforts to support the North Korean people as they strive to achieve the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled as human beings. [The White House]
He’s talked a pretty good game, but six years into his Administration, he’s never pressed his human rights concerns to the Chinese, North Koreans, or South Koreans. Radio broadcasting has still not significantly expanded, and the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 still isn’t fully funded. Human rights has been pushed aside at the six-party talks. His Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea is kept on a short leash by a State Department establishment that opposes the effective execution of his portfolio. North Korea is back to selling arms and raking in blackmail money with no strings attached. We’ve let in just about 30 refugees, so an informed source tells me.
So forgive me if I question the President’s sincerity on this issue. Yes, it’s still better than the Democrats have done, which is about as much as Bush has done, but without the rhetoric, and much more often, exactly the wrong rhetoric. It’s now down to a few conservate Republican congressmen to give this issue any relevance at all.
HT: DPRK Studies.