Save North Korean Refugees Day: Friday, September 24, 2021
I am writing to provide an update for next Friday's Save North Korean Refugees Day which is being organized by the North Korea Freedom Coalition for September 24th and to invite you to join in these efforts wherever you are.
This is perhaps the most strategic time ever in the North Korean refugee crisis.
Here is why: with the North Korean border still shut down, China has not been able to force North Korean Refugees back to their certain torture, imprisonment and potential death in North Korea. We know that those who are detained today had to have had the resources to have been able to get out of North Korea. Thus, they fall into two main categories: these refugees are former Korean Worker Party members OR had family in South Korea that financed their escape. That makes them subject to execution if they are forced back.
Now, the recent missile test by the Kim Jong Un regime presents an interesting opportunity for us refugee advocates as we know that China sometimes uses the refugee situation to show its displeasure with the Kim regime. China cannot be happy about these latest provocations by Kim, nor is President Moon, who so wished to see a breakthrough during his administration. So, there is a chance this could increase the likelihood that the PRC will allow these refugees to go to the Republic of Korea for resettlement, AND we know that the Republic of Korea has indeed requested that the PRC allow them to come to South Korea.
An important article written several years ago by former US Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Ambassador Robert King points out that while China shows no humanitarian concern for these defectors, it does sometimes use them for broader foreign policy considerations. Ambassador King wrote: "When relations with Pyongyang are good, the Chinese return to North Korea any defectors they capture illegally entering China. But there are also times when the Chinese seek to curry favor with Seoul or to show displeasure toward Pyongyang. In such cases, defectors will be handed over to the South Koreans, usually quietly." See full article here "Difficulties for Defectors in the Era of Rapprochement with North Korea" https://www.csis.org/analysis/difficulties-defectors-era-rapprochement-north-korea
I believe this is just such a time!
So, please consider joining us for this important day devoted to saving North Korean refugees by getting involved in one of the following ways:
Volunteer to be a City and/or Country Coordinator: We are recruiting volunteers especially in cities with Chinese embassies and consulates to commit to deliver a letter on that day calling on the PRC to end their brutal, violent, and illegal repatriation of North Korean refugees. This can be done virtually if you do not want to go in person, we ask that you snap a picture of the delivery to share. Since, most will deliver virtually, you do not have to live in the city, so feel free to adopt a PRC embassy or consulate in the city and country of your choice.
You can use the text below for your own letter or use the letter from the NKFC which we can prepare for any coordinators. Johnny Park, DFF Human Rights Fellow, and Teresa Ost, NKFC Secretary, have agreed to serve as our international coordinators. They are working to line up as many cities and countries as possible and are standing by to help any coordinators with letters. Note that all letters are directed at Xi Jinping and sent c/o the local PRC ambassador or consulate officer. The point is to have as many letters arriving that day so that the PRC knows that people all over the world know about these refugees who are in grave peril. The letter (as you can see below) is straightforward, non-confrontational. After all, all we are asking is for China to honors its international treaty obligations. That's it.
Also, as in the past, we welcome events in solidarity whether prayer vigils, demonstrations, film screenings of movies that depict this crisis like 48M or Crossing etc. Just setting aside that day to pray and fast for North Korean refugees has power.
IF you can, please join us in Washington, D.C.! We will hold several events on the afternoon of Friday, September 24th including a short demonstration at the Chinese Central TV Station and a candlelight vigil at the PRC embassy where we will read aloud THE LIST which was started in 2002 to mark all the cases of repatriations and arrests of refugees and humanitarian workers. Bus transportation will be provided from Northern Virginia.
I promise you will greatly enjoy the amazing people you will meet who will take part in these events.
Just let me know if you can come out that day and be with us as that will determine the size of the bus we rent. The time commitment on that Friday will be approximately one and half hours to six hours - depending on whether you join all three events that day.
ACTA NON VERBA,
Seoul Peace Prize Laureate
President, Defense Forum Foundation
Chair, North Korea Freedom Coalition
September 24, 2021
His Excellency Xi Jinping
President, People’s Republic of China
c/o His Excellency (ambassador on consulate officer filled in here)Xu Hong
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
city state zip country)
Dear Mr. President:
On September 24, 1982, the People’s Republic of China signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. By signing this agreement the PRC agreed to share international concerns and protocols for refugees. As you know the Korean family remains divided and those living under the Kim Jong Un regime in the North suffer unspeakable atrocities and crimes against humanity leading many to flee the country and become refugees. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK (COI) concluded in February 2014 in describing the Kim regime: “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”
We appeal to you as China’s leader with this specific request: please provide safe passage to refugees coming into China from North Korea and cease returning them to North Korea. Those returned under your current policies face certain torture, certain imprisonment and even public execution.
We respect China’s concerns about refugees crossing its border when fleeing persecution and deprivation in North Korea, and we ask that your government resolve this refugee crisis in a way that fulfills the goals of the Convention and Protocol. Unlike any other refugee crisis in the world, North Korean refugees have a place to go for immediate resettlement as citizens of South Korea under Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic of Korea Constitution. In addition to South Korea, other countries have willingly resettled these refugees.
North Korean refugees need not be a burden and concern for China as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHRC) will help China quickly and safely resettle these refugees. We believe working together with the international community, and the UNHCR, China can resolve this crisis quickly, safely, and according to international law.
We look forward to your response to our request, and thank you for your consideration.