Abductions Activism Anju Links Human Rights

Committee for Human Rights in N. Korea to Release Report on Abductions

I’ll simply post the press release and let it speak for itself:

Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

1725 Eye (I) Street, NW “¢ Suite 300 “¢ Washington, DC 20006 “¢ (202) 349-3830 www.hrnk.org


****For Immediate Release****

On Thursday, the Washington-based bipartisan Committee for Human Rights in North Korea will release an extraordinary report, “TAKEN! North Korea’s Criminal Abduction of Citizens of Other Countries.

The report, three years in the making, is based on numerous sources never before published in English, detailing how people of at least twelve nationalities have been abducted from fourteen countries around the world. It features satellite imagery of where many of these abductees have lived (and may still live) and where they have been forced to work for the North Korean regime.

This report, unlike others that presume little is known about the abductions, sets out the massive amount of information that can be compiled by comparing testimony from former abductees, former operatives of the North Korean regime, and former agents who collaborated with the regime.

In light of these details, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea explains how the abductions were carried out, how the victims were treated in North Korea, how the regime used the abductees to carry out its espionage objectives, and how the regime organized itself bureaucratically to implement Kim Jong-il’s directives to abduct foreign nationals and exploit their knowledge and abilities.

As with all Committee reports, this report provides policy recommendations on how to implement an international strategy to raise the issue of abductions with North Korea both bilaterally and multilaterally, and pursue legal recourse.

The report is the result of extensive coordination with organizations that focus on North Korean abductions in Tokyo and Seoul, as well as US, Japanese, and South Korean officials. Family members of the abductees will participate in Thursday’s release of the HRNK report.

The presentation of this report will be held Thursday May 12 at 9:30 am at the National Press Club, 529 14th Street, NW, 13th floor, “First Amendment Room.


Chuck Downs, Executive Director, Committee on Human Rights in North Korea

Telephone 202-349-3832, email Executive.Director@hrnk.org


  1. Where can I get hold of this report, please? Unless I’m blind or dumb, there is no trace of it on HRNK’s website. Yet it is all over the BBC and other media. Strange.

    Aidan FC

    Aidan Foster-Carter
    Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea, Leeds University, UK

    E: afostercarter@aol.com afostercarter@yahoo.com W: http://www.aidanfc.net
    Flat 1, 40 Magdalen Road, Exeter, Devon, EX2 4TE, England, UK
    T: (+44, no 0) 07970 741307 (mobile); 01392 257753 (home)
    Skype: Aidan.Foster.Carter Twitter: @fcaidan


  2. Aidan, I couldn’t see it either. I wouldn’t mind having one sent to me, Chris.

    The Beeb seems to have gotten hold of it. As I noted, it’s rather disturbing, if it’s true, that the number includes Brits and other Europeans “lured to the secretive state with the promise of jobs and then denied permission to leave.” I mean, nowadays English teaching in global backwaters is Xtreme Working, and I can imagine more than a few wanderlusters tired of the daily grind back in Seattle, Saskatoon, or Sheffield heading for Sariwon, only to find that the DPRK is one big Hotel California.


  3. Aidan and Chris have, as usual, beat me and most everyone else to the punch. I’ll try to do my part by e-mailing Chuck Downs right now and will share any leads.

    Thanks to Joshua for calling attention to the report in the first place. And well said, Kushibo: DPRK as Hotel California, indeed!


  4. The full report is available via Marcus Noland’s blog [ http://www.piie.com/blogs/TAKEN-Final-Proof.pdf ]; thanks to Aidan Foster-Carter for the heads-up on the Korean Studies listserv.

    The report runs about 140 pages: the principal researcher is Yoshi Yamamoto. Curtis Melvin gets a nice mention in the acknowledgements.

    Unfortunately, the research on a rather significant question — “Does North Korea abduct people from within China?” — is, in one case, inconclusive at best.

    Yamamoto’s report (p. 11) asserts that North Korea has abducted 200 people from within China. Wonderful, finally someone is paying attention! Perhaps I can finally get my answers about Reverend Kim Dong-shik and the rest. Bravo. But the source for the 200 abductions assertion is a 16 November 2009 AFP report [ http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gaozhL-fJlhCOJOza5ZsB-x6Pw9w ]. Unfortunately, the AFP dispatch is not original reporting, and the reporter saw no original documents and did no interviews on the question at hand.

    Instead, the AFP dispatch is based entirely on a Chosun Ilbo report from “last Tuesday,” which by my calculations is 10 November 2009. Yamamoto seems to have been too busy to track down or cite the original Chosun Ilbo report. What a misfortune for people trying to learn more about this topic.

    If anyone were able to find the Chosun Ilbo report in question, I would certainly appreciate it. I spent the last 20 minutes digging around the English and Korean Chosun Ilbo websites and was unable to come up with it.

    In any event, the evidence wormhole gets deeper. The AFP story notes that “[Chosun Ilbo] said the figure [of 200 abuductions in China since 1999] was based on data that a support group for refugees, the Committee for Democratisation of North Korea, had secured from the government of Changbai prefecture in China’s northeastern province of Jilin.”

    That’s considered credible? Has anyone — including the unknown Chosun Ilbo reporter — seen the Chinese language report? Is the Changbai prefectural government in the habit of handing out internal security reports to North Korean defectors? Why would they do that — unless the Chinese government were using North Korean defector organizations in order to anger the North Korean government and get sympathy from Western governments on the refugee issue, two things which, according to One Free Korea and the Chosun Ilbo, the Chinese government is incapable of doing?

    So, for the time being, if you’re going to take the lead of the Yamamoto report and use the figure of 200 when it comes to numbers of people abducted from within China by North Korean agents, you might want to phrase it this way in the interests of clarity:

    “According to an AFP report based upon an unseen Chosun Ilbo report which itself is based upon an unseen Chinese police report alleged to be in the possession of a North Korean refugee organization with ties to Hwang Jang Yop in Seoul, North Korea has abducted 200 people from inside of China in the past twelve years or so.”

    In the meantime, does anyone have the e-mail address for Hong Soon Kyung (President of the Committee for Democratization of North Korea)? He was all over North Korean Freedom Week at the end of April, but I’m sorry to have missed him and the whole event. I would assume that Hong has a copy of the Changbai security report upon which the Chosun Ilbo and AFP stories were based or could (as in the case of the almost certainly forged “Baishan Public Security Bureau” document brandished in the Wall Street Journal and, consequently, on OFK as “proof” of a machine-gun massacre of refugees on the Yalu cited below) post a copy to Flickr in the interests of confirming this most significant assertion, since Yamamoto’s report didn’t succeed in passing the evidence test.


    The Committee report’s notes on Kim Dong-shik (p. 30-31, 81) are fascinating and I hope will merit a post by Joshua at some point. Yamamoto goes so far as to obtain South Korean court records to confirm the account of Kim’s abduction from Yanji which was described in Christian Solidarity Worldwide, _North Korea: A Case to Answer, A Call to Act_, (New Malden, United Kingdom, 2007), p. 57, which is a book I had not been aware of. One note: The subsequent footnote (#67) in the report on Kim Dong-shik has an important typo: “htmal” at the end of the url should read “html”, and then a long list in Japanese of events in Yanbian in 2005 can be unfurled.

    In spite of my nitpicking over vague and possibly specious sourcing, there is still much to learn from the Committee’s heavy-on-Japanese-sources report and I’m glad to have been alerted to its presence by the formidable network of folks here on OFK, most of all Joshua.


  5. That’s some heavy-duty nitpicking there, mate. But you are right, of course, for it is from such acorns that “North Korea may have abducted at least 180,000 people”-sized Oaks/Reuters articles grow. Who can say they were not shocked by that number?

    For it takes neither the analytical chops nor the bloody-minded unwillingness to let the anglo-centric anti-Kim faction have it’s way unheeded to question whether the inclusion of 93,000 members of the Homecoming Project was reasonable (actually, it probably was, in the same way that a man in a dirty jacket luring young girls into cars at the school gates with the promise of candy is clearly guilty of abduction).

    However, note also that the report appears to conclude that the crime of ‘abduction’ can be readily applied to the cases of, among others, Hunziker, Ling, Lee, Park and Gomes. I say appears because it muddies the waters with “detained”. If abduction, it would, I fear, be stretching credulity somewhat, but I’d love to hear from those who disagree.

    Nevertheless, it is a great report, well written and engaging. And, if given the choice between it and the absence of meaningful action from Amnesty International, for example, I know what I would choose. Despite appearances potentially to the contrary, I daresay so would Adam 😉


  6. It’s certainly true that the number of abductees from China is hard to estimate, and the report tries to include them without having any way to do anything more than recognize it is probably a very significant problem. I’d be the first to support any proposal from Adam Cathcart to do a study on that particular aspect of the issue. We did not have the capability to get into it.

    As to the Korean residents in Japan, people may differ as to whether they are abductees. The point is, however, they were lured to North Korea under false pretenses and their rights have been ignored since they arrived. It’s all part of the same picture.

    Regarding the chart at the end of the book, reviewers of the drafts said that a way to keep the names straight was needed–the information on so many Asian names was simply overwhelming, so it is a chart to the people mentioned in the text, a point made clearly on p. 7. Regrettably, when the layout artists got the section he assigned it a title that referred to abductees. Any reading of the chart though reveales it comprises not just abductees but also victims of ATTEMPTED abductions, US military deserters, terrorists, and a bunch of other mentioned in the report. If there is ever another edition, I hope this and a hundred or so other errors (my own list is more extensive than any reader of One Free so far) will be changed before the next printing. In the meantime, we’ve got the most comprehensive report on the issue ever put together. Best, Chuck Downs


  7. [T]he research on a rather significant question — “Does North Korea abduct people from within China?” — is, in one case, inconclusive at best.

    So, you’re talking about one report, right? Because there’s ample evidence from multiple sources that the North Korean Reconnaissance Bureau operates extensively in China for the purpose of kidnapping North Korean refugees and bringing them back across the border. China’s totalitarian nature — it seems to be more totalitarian, not less, each year — makes it reasonable to infer that China can’t be unaware that agents of a foreign government are operating on its territory, committing what would be felonies in any other circumstance, and then crossing China’s borders with the victims.

    As far as Rev. Kim’s case is concerned, one of the North Korean agents who took part in the kidnapping plot have been convicted of the crime, and as of last year, a second suspect was in South Korean custody.

    Only the Chinese and North Korean governments really know the whole story, of course, but for some reason, they’re not telling us what it is. Until that changes, I’d suggest that invoking the hearsay rule at the margins doesn’t get the indictment dismissed. Meanwhile, a more productive line of discussion might be what China has to hide, and why it isn’t willing to resolve our doubts by showing some transparency for once.


  8. What about the KAL YS-11 high jacking? The report doesn’t seem to talk about it, although considering the scale of the abductions issue I guess something would be left out:

    In December 1969 a routine flight from Gangneung to Seoul suddenly turned north and landed (apparently pretty hard) at Wonson. Eventually 39 passengers were released, but the 2 pilots, two flight attendants, and 7 passengers were never returned, or if you believe the North, wished to stay. The 2 flight attendants apparently were used to make propaganda broadcasts to the South, and one of them was able to briefly meet her mother at one of the reunions around 2001. there’s a Chosun Ilbo account of that reunion, apparently the stewardess is now married to a professor at Kim Il Sung University and her son is a soldier in the KPA.

    Of course, as Joshua loves to point out, North Korea is longer a state sponsor of terrorism.


  9. Adam, I got you covered right here:

    탈북자 돕던 조선족 등 200여명 北에 납치당해

    지난 10여년간…中, 공식 송환요구 안해

    북한이 지난 10여년간 탈북 주민을 도운 조선족 등 중국인들을 수백명 납치한 것으로 16일 확인됐다. 그러나 중국 정부는 자국민이 납치된 것을 확인하고서도 북한에 공식적으로 이 문제를 제기하지 않고 있는 것으로 알려졌다.

    탈북자연합단체인 북한민주화위원회가 중국 창바이현(長白縣) 정부 및 가족 등으로부터 입수한 자료에 따르면 창바이(長白)현 팔도구 보건소 운전기사였던 조선족 이성광(44)씨는 1998년 고위직 출신 탈북자 등 북한 주민의 탈북을 도왔다는 이유로 북으로 납치됐다. 중국 공안이 이씨의 납치 상황을 조사한 기록에 따르면 납치시점은 1998년 3월 6일 18시로 돼 있다. 당시 이씨는 팔도구 소재 압록강변에서 북한 경비병과 밀무역을 하기 위해 접촉을 시도하고 있었다. 이씨의 배에는 담배 10보루와 중국 술 한 박스가 담겨 있었다고 한다.

    당시 중국 쪽으로 강을 넘어온 북한 êµ­ê²½ 경비대원 4명은 ‘다짜고짜 이씨를 폭행한 후 자루에 ë‹´ì•„ì„œ 팔도구 ì•ž 북한 김형직군(옛 후창군)으로 끌고갔다’ê³  조사 기록은 적고 있다. 피랍된 이씨는 친구 김덕규(조선족•창바이현 거주)씨에게 í•œ 차례 전화를 걸었지만 그후 연락이 두절됐다. 이씨 피랍 직후 중국 공안당국은 이 사건을 조사하고 북한측에 송환 요청을 했다. 그러나 이씨가 양강도 혜산시 도(道)보위부 감옥에 있다는 사실만 확인했고 송환은 이뤄지지 않았다.

    2008ë…„ 4ì›” 조선족 이기천(42)씨도 북한 국가안전보위부에 납치된 것으로 알려졌다. 중국 연변조선족자치주 카이산툰에 거주하던 이씨는 10년째 탈북 브로커로 일하고 있었다. 그는 북한 내부의 지인 김모씨와 협력해 탈북자들을 북•중 국경에서 옌지(延吉)까지 안내하는 일을 했다. 어느 ë‚  김씨가 이씨에게 전화를 걸어 “물건이 도착했으니 두만강 앞으로 나오라”ê³  했다. 이씨가 차를 몰고 두만강 앞으로 가자 미리 와서 숨어 있던 북한 보위부 요원 6명이 이씨를 끌고갔다고 한다. 이씨와 함께 일했던 김씨는 이미 북한 보위부에 체포돼 다리 힘줄이 끊어져 있었다고 한다. 김씨는 보위부가 시키는 대로 이씨를 유인하기 위해 전화를 했던 것으로 알려졌다. 이씨의 부인은 중국 돈 40만위안(약 8000만원)을 ë‚´ë©´ 남편을 구할 수 있다는 소문을 듣고 석방을 시도했지만 실패하고, 중국 공안에 신고했다.

    북•중 국경지역에서 20ë…„ê°„ 북한과 무역을 해온 í•œ 조선족은 “북한에 납치된 사람들이 일본과 한국에만 있는 것으로 알려져 있지만 가장 심각한 납치행위는 바로 중국 땅에서 벌어지고 있다”ê³  말했다.

    현지 소식통들에 따르면 중국 공안은 약 200명의 중국인이 북한에 끌려간 것으로 추산하고 있다고 한다.

    1990년대 후반 들어 탈북자가 급증하자 북한 보위부는 북한 주민들의 탈북을 돕는 조선족을 표적으로 삼았다고 한다. í•œ 고위 탈북자는 “북한 보위부가 중국 조선족들의 반북 활동을 제지하는 수단으로 납치라는 공포 수단을 활용해왔다”ê³  말했다.

    그러나 중국이 정부 차원에서 이들의 송환을 요구하거나 항의한 경우는 거의 없었다고 한다. í•œ 조선족은 “납치된 사람들이 대부분 조선족이기 때문에 그런 것 아니냐는 의심이 든다”ê³  했다. 또 다른 조선족은 “중국 정부가 자국민 납치를 인권문제 차원에서 접근하기보다 혈맹이라는 북한과의 특수관계를 우선하기 때문”이라고 했다. 그는 “중국 공안 당국이 가족들의 신고를 받고 북한에 항의하는 경우도 있지만 북한 당국은 ‘모른다’ê³  잡아떼기 일쑤고 그렇게 나오면 달리 대응할 방법이 없다”고도 했다. 2009.11.17.ì¡°ì„ 

    Give me a few minutes and I’ll translate it for you.


  10. Here’s a translation of the above article. I pounded this out in a hurry, so apologizes in advance for poor style and the plethora of mistakes.

    That said, the relevant part is that the article does give a few concrete examples of Korean-Chinese who have been “disappeared” by North Koreans who strayed over the border, but the “200 people” figure is attributed to an unnamed “local source (현지 소식통).”

    Around 200 Korean-Chinese who helped North Korean refugees were Abducted by North Korea.

    During the past ten years, North Korean has kidnapped hundreds of Korean-Chinese and other Chinese who aided North Korean refugees. However, even though the Chinese government has confirmed that their citizens have been kidnapped, they have yet to formally bring up the issue with the North Koreans.

    According to information from the Changbai County government and families [of the kidnapped] obtained by the Committee for Democratization of North Korea, a North Korean refugee group, Lee Seong-gwang, a Korean-Chinese driver for the Badaogou [Trans— “八道沟镇”] District Health Center, was kidnapped for helping refugees—including some high-ranking refugees—to flee from the North.

    According to the records from the Chinese Public Security Bureau investigation, the time of the kidnapping was March 6th, 1998 at 6pm. At that time, Lee was near the banks of the Yalu river in Badougou trying to contact North Korean border guards in order to engage in smuggling. In Lee’s boat were 10 cartons of cigarettes and a box of Chinese liquor.

    At the time, 4 North Korean guards crossed to the Chinese side of the river, and “After beating up Lee without warning, he was put into a sack and taken to Kim Hyung-jik County (formerly Huchang County), across the river from Badaogou,” the investigation records reveal. Lee’s friend, Kim Deokgyu (a Korean-Chinese resident of Changbai County) called Lee once, but after that, contact [with Lee] ceased.

    Immediately after Lee’s kidnapping, authorities from the Chinese Public Security Bureau began investigating the case and requested that the North repatriate Lee. However, all they could confirm was that Lee was being held by the Provincial State Security Department (도보위부) in Hyesan, Yangkang Province.

    In April of 2008, 43-year-old Korean-Chinese Lee Gi-chok was also kidnapped by the State Security Department. Lee, a resident of Kaishandun [Trans— 開山屯镇] in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, worked for ten years as a refugee broker. Coordinating with Kim Mo [Trans—a common Korean placeholder name like “John Doe” in English], an acquaintance in North Korea, Lee guided refugees as far as Yanji. One day, Kim telephoned Lee, telling him, “Something has arrived, come to the bank of the Tumen River.” Upon arriving at the bank of the Tuman River, Lee was apprehended by 6 State Security Department officers who had been lying in wait [on the Chinese side]. Kim had already been arrested, as the tendon in his leg was cut. Kim had called Lee at the orders of the State Security Department for the purpose of entrapping Lee. According to rumors, Lee’s wife paid 400,000RMB (around 80 million KRW) in an attempt to free her husband, but her efforts failed, and she reported [the case] to the Public Security Bureau.

    According to one Korean-Chinese who has been trading with the North Koreans at the Sino-Korean border for 20 years, “As I know, the people kidnapped by the North Koreans have been Japanese or South Koreans, but the most serious abductions are happening on Chinese soil.”

    According to a local informant, the Public Security Bureau estimates that around 200 Chinese citizens have been [detained and] taken to North Korea.

    At the end of the 1990s, the number of North Korean refugees shot up, and the State Security Department began targeting Korean-Chinese who were helping refugees to flee the North. According to one high-ranking refugee, “The North Korean State Security Department is using the fear generated by abductions to deter Korean-Chinese from engaging in anti-North Korea activities.”

    However, Chinese government rarely protests [the North’s actions] or requests the reparation of abductees. According to one Korean-Chinese, “We suspect that the reason for this is that the majority of those kidnapped have been Korean-Chinese.”

    According to another Korean-Chinese, “Rather than approach the abduction problem as a human rights issue, the Chinese government, the Chinese government prefers to put its special ‘blood alliance’ with the North first.” He added, “There are cases in which Chinese Public Security Bureau authorities lodged a protest with the North, but the North Korean authorities constantly feign ignorance and say ‘We don’t know.’ When they proceed like that, there is nothing more you can do.”


  11. Respected Sir

    My Name is T.S.Chandrashekar M.A.M’PhiL/(PhD Pol Science Dept of Seoul National Univ DTS)
    Want to associate with Groups and Activsit who work for Korea Unificaiton and against Inhuman and draconian North Korea Regime.

    Based in Bangalore India

    T.S.Chandrashekar M.A.M’PhiL/(PhD DTS)
    International Peace Political and Social Activist
    Bangalore India


  12. Good work Milton!

    I just hope they get out.

    The whole affair is just shameful for China.



  13. Regarding YS-11, it seems to me the coverage on page 68 was enough–the point is how the crew was used.

    Regarding the article Milton provides on Chinese abductions, it’s good to have and keep and maybe it would have helped make the point better. I suspect that NK abductions of Chosun-jo happen so frequently and with so little notice that the figure of 200 is probably an understatement. The real point is that Chinese officials generally turn a blind eye to what North Korean agents do among the ethnic Korean population. Lack of regard for ethnic Koreans’ rights trumps PRC jurisdiction and sovereignty, at least in this case.

    Regarding Eye Street versus I Street, we try to do what we can to accommodate our visitors and colleagues from Korea, some of whom are not attuned to the alphabet. Even L’Enfant was worried that if he put in a J it would confuse people. I and L are also confusing.


  14. Josh, when I wrote “the report,” I meant HRNK’s report on abductions (TAKEN!) not the single source for the estimate of 200. There are reports going back to when I worked on the Hill of North Korean agents going into China, removing North Korean escapees from Chinese jails, and taking them away. One KPA Navy radar guy was an especially interesting case.


  15. @Chuck Downs,
    Thanks, I don’t know how I missed that! That’s actually an interesting detail about the “welcoming ceremony.”



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