Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR)

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Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR)


Our Work Refugee Rescue

Our Work

  • Advocacy & Campaigns
  • North Korean Youth Programs
  • Public Education
  • Refugee Rescue

Refugee Rescue

In North Korea, escaping the country is a crime. Escapees who are caught face punishment ranging from a few months of detention to several
years in prison, while those alleged to have committed serious crimes such as coming into contact with Christianity are sentenced to a
political prison camp, sometimes indefinitely.

The majority of North Koreans who wish to escape do so by crossing the Tumen or Yalu rivers, the northern border between North Korea and
China. Despite the fact that all North Korean refugees will be persecuted if deported back to North Korea, China does not recognize North
Koreans as refugees but considers them illegal economic migrants. This is contrary to international law. As a result, North Korean refugees in
China are provided no legal protection and are unable to apply for asylum. UN agencies and NGOs cannot officially operate at the China-
North Korea border to provide assistance. This situation has bred an environment in which criminal circles in China exploit North Korean
refugees—women and children in particular are sexually trafficked and sold as "brides." Women and young girls are repeatedly raped and
beaten. They often give birth to children that are "stateless" and have no legal status in China. For many refugees, getting out of China is a
matter of life and death

Refugee rescue and assistance has been an important part of NKHR's work since our establishment in 1996. We rescue refugees by providing
shelter and a secure route to South Korea through a third country such as Thailand. For those in need who wish to remain in China, we
provide relief assistance such as food, medicine, and clothing. NKHR prioritizes those who are especially in need such as women, children,
and those who may face death upon forcible return to North Korea. NKHR has directly assisted hundreds of North Korean refugees in coming
to South Korea. These rescues are funded by private donations.

NKHR also monitors and advocates for North Korean refugees in third countries. In particularly perilous situations of refugees facing possible
repatriation back to North Korea or other life-threatening circumstances, we alert the media and petition the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR),
foreign governments, and the South Korean government for intervention.

NKHR's rescue assistance does not end when refugees reach South Korea. We provide education and adjustment programs for children and
, and we assist North Koreans in legal and other matters when requested.

    • Nine North Korean refugees at risk of im… (Photo:  The mother of one of the refugees demonstrating outside the South Korean Ministry of Unification to help save her child) Nine North Korean refugees, including an 11-month old baby, are at risk of being imminently sent back to North Korea. NKHR calls on China to refrain from forcibly sending the nine refugees back to North Korea, where they would face torture, imprisonment, and possibly even execution. The refugees were arrested in Vietnam on October 22 and have been reportedly taken to Northeast China near the North Korean border, presumably by Chinese authorities. Their route raises serious concern that the refugees face imminent repatriation. ​ The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is "alarmed" about the situation and "urge[s] all concerned governments to refrain from forcibly returning individuals who have fled the DPRK." Read the UN statement below.  Press briefing note on China, Thailand, Viet Nam and Democratic People's Republic of KoreaSpokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina ShamdasaniLocation: Geneva Date: 20 November 2015 Subjects:    (1) Thailand / China and (2) Viet Nam / DPRK(1) Thailand / China[...] (2) Viet Nam / DPRKWe are alarmed at reports that nine North Korean nationals, including a one-year-old infant and a teenager, were arrested in Viet Nam last month and subsequently transferred to China. There are fears that they may be – or may already have been – repatriated to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) where they would be at risk of very serious human rights violations. According to information we have received, the nine North Korean nationals, as well as another child who has a North Korean mother and Chinese father, were arrested in Viet Nam on 22 October 2015. Several days later, the group was reportedly sent to Dongxing, a Chinese town at the border with Viet Nam.On 17 November, the group allegedly arrived at Shenyang in China, close to the DPRK border. The group of nine North Korean nationals has since reportedly been taken out of the city, while the other child was left behind. It is believed that the group is being escorted by the Chinese authorities. The current whereabouts of the nine individuals are unknown. This series of events strongly suggests that the group is at imminent risk of being repatriated to the DPRK – and we are gravely concerned that they may already have been returned.The 2014 report of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK found that people who are forcibly repatriated to the DPRK are commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced abortions and other sexual violence. The Commission called on China and other countries to respect the principle of non-refoulement, particularly noting China’s policy to forcibly repatriate any North Korean without proper documentation. The Committee Against Torture has also stressed that “under no circumstances should the State party expel, return or extradite a person to a State where there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture”.We urge the Chinese and Vietnamese authorities to publicly clarify the fate of the nine North Korean nationals. We further urge all concerned governments to refrain from forcibly returning individuals who have fled the DPRK.ENDSFor more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / ) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / your news websites and social media: Key messages about our news releases are available on UN Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handlesTwitter: UNrightswireFacebook: unitednationshumanrightsGoogle+: unitednationshumanrightsYoutube: unohchr- See more at:  [이 게시물은 최고관리자님에 의해 2015-11-23 18:02:16 press에서 복사 됨] [이 게시물은 최고관리자님에 의해 2015-12-07 19:16:12 bbs_active_news에서 복사 됨] See details
    • Fundraising in Canada for North Korean r… Fundraising in Canada for North Korean refugees By North Korean resettler Sungju Lee “A man saving a life indeed is saving the world.”  Rescuing North Korean refugees in China is a great way to defend universal human rights and build a stable foundation for the coming reunification of North and South Korea. In order to elicit interest and increase awareness of our rescue efforts among Korean-Canadian communities, a refugee rescue activist and I visited Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Regina this May. Under the title “the reality of North Korea in the eyes of refugee rescue activity,” we cooperated with the NUAC (South Korea’s National Unification Advisory Council) in Vancouver to hold seminars and fundraising campaigns.  During the trip, we held lectures, discussions, displayed North Korean artifacts at Korean churches in Vancouver. We discussed various North Korean issues including its current circumstances, rescuing North Korean refugees in China, and defectors’ resettlement procedure in the South. During the discussion and Q&A session, we heard realistic advice to tackle the refugee issue. I also shared my own story about the agony of North Korean defectors in China.     Following the church visits, we had dinner with leaders of Vancouver’s Korean community and discussed the specifics of how North Korean refugees are rescued. Thanks to the positive energy and passion shown toward the issue, the community leaders promised to consistently support our rescue efforts. The next day was one of the highlights of the trip—we met an anonymous sponsor who pledged to match donations to rescue 50 North Korean refugees in China! I will never forget that wonderful moment.   In Edmonton and Calgary, we co-held seminars with NUAC. Many in the audience were startled at the reality of human rights in North Korea and passionately joined our fundraising campaign to rescue North Korean refugees. Another highlight of the trip was when I met Carly Rose Chislett at the seminar in Calgary. She is an 18-year-old high school student who engages in various activities for North Korean human rights with her friends. She told me how shocked she was when she first learned about the human rights situation in North Korea on the news. It was then that she decided to get involved. Even though it was just a short talk, I will never forget meeting her.    Throughout the entire trip, everyone was extremely supportive and encouraging. But the greatest part was that I came back to South Korea with a fund that will rescue more than 50 North Korean refugees in China. I am deeply grateful for everyone who supported our journey and contributed to our rescue fund. Thanks to their great efforts, over 50 North Korean refugees in China will experience freedom and safety. That is why I can say, without the slightest hesitation, that they are the real heroes who stepped forward to make this world a better place.   See details
    • NKHR and APRRN call upon China to immedi… NKHR and APRRN call upon China to immediately stop the forcible repatriation of nine North Korean refugees  1 December 2015  Nine North Korean refugees in China, including an 11-month-old infant, appear to be facing imminent repatriation to North Korea. If repatriated, these nine refugees would face torture and other severe human rights violations. Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR) and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) call upon China to immediately halt the repatriation of these refugees and permit their safe travel to a third country such as South Korea.  Vietnamese officials arrested the nine refugees on October 22, 2015, in Vietnam, as the group was making their way to the South Korean embassy in Laos. A few days later, the refugees were reportedly transferred to Dongxing, China, near the border with Vietnam. On November 16, Chinese authorities reportedly moved the group to Shenyang, a major transit city in Northeast China, much closer to North Korea. The proximity to the North Korean border raises serious concerns that the nine refugees will be repatriated soon.  If the nine refugees are repatriated to North Korea by China, they face an extreme risk of torture, imprisonment, and possibly even execution. North Korea strictly restricts its citizens from leaving the country and severely punishes those who attempt to escape. The 2014 report of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea found that refugees forcibly repatriated are commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced abortions, and other sexual violence.  Given these well-documented human rights violations, China’s forcible repatriation of these nine refugees would violate its international law obligations, including the Convention against Torture and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Less than two weeks ago, on November 17, the UN Committee on Torture raised this very concern with China about its policy of repatriating North Korean refugees despite reports of torture. China routinely repatriates North Korean refugees to China, labeling them “economic migrants”, in an attempt to evade its international law obligations.  Vietnam’s transfer of the nine North Korean refugees to China also violates its obligations under international law, including the Convention against Torture, the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.  NKHR and APRRN thus call on China and Vietnam to immediately disclose the fate and whereabouts of the nine North Korean refugees. China must also stop the forcible repatriation of the nine refugees immediately, and permit them to travel safely onwards to a third country such as South Korea.  Note: While APRRN statements are prepared in consultations with APRRN members, they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members.​​  [이 게시물은 최고관리자님에 의해 2015-12-08 15:46:52 bbs_active_news에서 복사 됨] See details
    • Protesting Laos' Deportation of 9 North … NKHR Protests Laos' Deportation of 9 North Korean Youth TimelineMay 10          9 North Korean youth detained in Laos; South Korean group leader                         requests emergency assistance from South Korean embassy in                         Vientiane to no availMay 11          South Korea-based human rights organization requests the South Korean                         Embassy in Vientiane to initiate emergency diplomatic protocol, to no avail May 20, 24     North Korean Embassy in Vientiane meets with the 9 youth in detention May 27          Laos deports youth, who go to China before being taken to North Korea May 29          NKHR protests at the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs                       NKHR sends an Urgent Appeal to foreign embassies in Seoul (Attached)May 31          NKHR protests at the Laotian Embassy in Seoul In the midst of their escape to South Korea, 9 North Korean youth defectors (ages 14-23) were caught by authorities in Laos on May 10, 2013. They were then deported on May 27 to China, before being sent back to North Korea. The young refugees, who were caught while in the company of South Korean religious leaders, have probably already faced severe punishment. Nothing has been heard about them since their deportation. We know from North Koreans who have successfully escaped that the punishment for attempting to go to South Korea and for fraternizing with South Korean religious leaders includes torture, political prison camp sentences, and even execution.  On May 29, 2013, before it was confirmed that the youth had been deported, NKHR members and supporters gathered in front of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appeal to the government to take action and stop the repatriation of these young defectors. Two days later, NKHR held another street protest at the Embassy of Laos in South Korea to demonstrate against the Laotian government’s unlawful practice of refoulement, which it did despite knowing the fatal fate awaiting the refugees, and to urge the Laotian government never to send refugees back to North Korea again.  During the protest, a Laotian official came out to receive NKHR’s letter of appeal.  Links: CNN: Press: Street Journal:  See details
    • NKHR Rescue Fund hosts a propaganda game… NKHR Rescue Fund hosts a propaganda game and a film screening By Sohee Khim, NKHR intern and Rescue Fund volunteer NKHR Rescue Fund recently hosted two events to raise funds and awareness for North Korean refugees.The first was an event entitled “Two Truths and a Lie: Propaganda in the North Korean State” on February 27, 2015, at Rocky Mountain Tavern in Itaewon. Guests learned about life in North Korea through a discussion with Sungju Lee, a North Korean resettler who went from living the life of a kkotjebi (street child) in North Korea to interning at the Parliament of Canada. People then split up into groups participated in a game of “Two Truths and a Lie.” They were given three propaganda statements, two of which were real propaganda that is used in North Korea.  The groups had to guess which of the three statements was the fake propaganda.  In this way, guests learned about how the North Korean regime uses propaganda as a means of control. Following the game, guests stayed to speak with Sungju personally about his experiences as a North Korean resettler.    L: Poster for the event.  R: Raffle prize winners  The second event, on April 11, was a screening of the film ‘Winter Butterfly’ and discussion with the North Korean director, Kim Gyoo-min. Director Kim is one of the only North Korean resettlers active in the film industry.  The film follows Jin-ho, a young boy, and his mother, as they spiral into despair in North Korea. The audience was shocked to find out during the Q&A with Kim that the film was based on a true story, one Kim himself witnessed firsthand.  Following the event, the audience asked insightful questions about the food crisis Director Kim lived through in North Korea, and how best to help North Korea today. Director Kim said that, although the situation is better now than during the famine of the 1990s, people are still starving in North Korea. He suggested that when giving aid, donors take measures to ensure the aid goes to the general public and is not diverted to the military or the elite. L: Event poster.  R: Director Kim speaking about the filmThanks to generous donations, the Rescue Fund raised almost 800,000 KRW (about 820 USD) at the two events. The team is still working towards its goal of raising $15,000 by the end of the year. The team has another film screening scheduled for April 25, as well as a marathon fundraiser with Running4Resettlement. For more information, visit and like the Rescue Fund on Facebook. See details