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For Immediate Release: September 30, 2013 

International Campaign Launches to Save North Korean Refugees

(Washington, D.C.) The North Korea Freedom Coalition, a non partisan organization of over seventy organizations, today launched a campaign calling upon President Xi Jinping of China to end its policy of forcibly repatriating North Korean Refugees.  Simultaneously, with a heart breaking story about nine children forced back to North Korea which will air at 6 pm on CNN-international, the NKFC released a Youtube video depicting testimonies of North Koreans who escaped through China after most of their family members had died of starvation in North Korea.  The NKFC will also re-release THE LIST of North Korean refugees and humanitarian workers seized by China.  The NKFC is calling for people around the world to sign the online petition calling on China to end forced repatriation of North Koreans, which will be available at their website until December 10, 2013, International Human Rights Day.  The NKFC plans to deliver the petitions to the Chinese embassy on that date.

The Petition, The List, and Youtube Video (English with Korean and Chinese subtitles) can be seen at the NKFC website.

Each September the Coalition has highlighted the plight of these refugees as part of Save North Korean Refugees Day as September marks the month that China became a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees and its 1969 Protocol.

Rather than abide by its international treaty obligations, China continues to forcefully repatriate North Korean refugees back to North Korea where they face certain torture, certain imprisonment and even execution.  This policy has contributed to an environment of violent activity in China with North Korean agents assassinating humanitarian workers helping refugees and with the majority of North Korean female refugees being subjected to human trafficking.

The NKFC has long argued that ending this repatriation policy would have a very positive benefit for China, because it would send a strong signal to the Kim Jong Un regime of their need to open to the very reforms China wishes to see.  Furthermore, North Korean refugees are unlike any refugee population in the world because they have the ability to be immediately resettled in South Korea, as they have automatic citizenship under Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic of Korea's Constitution. In fact, already over 27,500 North Korean refugees have been safely resettled in South Korea and over twenty other nations.

The NKFC is simply calling upon Xi Jinping to honor its treaty commitments by working with the UNHCR and the international community to resolve this issue and end needless suffering.

China Ferrets out North Korean Refugees
Source: The New York Times
Date: July 30, 2001
By: Don Kirk

LEAD PARAGRAPH - The census takers move from house to house, asking pointed questions in Chinese, demanding responses, looking for signs of incomprehension on the faces of those they see lurking in the shadows.

''If you don't understand them, they will think you do not belong, and ask for identification,'' said a worker at a church that ministers to the Korean-Chinese community that dominates the population of this border town on the Tumen River facing North Korea. ''They will arrest you and send you back to North Korea.''


World Briefing | Asia: South Korea: More Refugees from North
Source: The New York Times
Date: July 7, 2001
By: Don Kirk

The National Intelligence Service said 25 more North Korean refugees have come to Seoul in the last few days, raising to 250 the number so far this year, compared with 312 in all of last year. The refugees fled through China to third countries, including Mongolia, where they contacted South Korean embassies.


7 North Koreans Allowed to Leave China
Source: The New York Times
Date: June 29, 2001
By: Elizabeth Rosenthal

BEIJING, China (AP) -- A group of seven illegal North Korean immigrants who walked into the office of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees on Tuesday demanding political asylum, were allowed by the Chinese government to leave today, United Nations officials and diplomats said.

They left with little fanfare and were already out of the country by the time the announcement was made.

"They have this morning departed China for a third country," said Colin Mitchell, the regional representative of the commission told reporters today.

One unconfirmed report said they were headed to Singapore, where United Nations officials were expected to meet them.

But it was an inconclusive end to a potentially explosive standoff between the United Nations and the Chinese, and one which did not address the central question that the incident raised:

Are some of the estimated 300,000 North Koreans living illegally in China political refugees who deserve international protection — as some United Nations officials have privately averred? Or are they all merely economic migrants who should be send home if apprehended — the Chinese government's view?

After three days of negotiations between officials from the United Nations and the Chinese government, the seven North Koreans were officially released for medical reasons, "in view of the fact that there were some health concerns within the family that could be more adequately addressed elsewhere," Mr. Mitchell said.

Two days ago, after Mr. Mitchell and his staff had interviewed the seven, all members of one family, a spokesman for the high commisioner's office in Geneva had announced that the United Nations "believed" they met the criterion for political refugee status, meaning they were likely to suffer punishment if returned to North Korea.

That determination in theory protected them from being forcibly sent home and granted them passage to a third country if China would not harbor them.

But China never directly commented on that judgment, saying only that illegal North Koreans in China should not be considered political refugees, adding: "there are no refugee issues" between China and North Korea.

As many as several thousand North Koreans cross the long porous border into China each month, aid groups say. Almost all of them initially come in search of food, to escape their isolated country's longstanding food shortages, which health groups say have led to more than a million deaths in the past six years.

While some sneak back with supplies in a matter of weeks, others stay in China for months or even years. And those who have been caught near the border and sent back by the Chinese often face punishment as traitors.

The seven who left China this morning were part of an extended family that had been living underground in China since 1999, a Japanese journalist who accompanied them to Beijing said. Five families members had already been caught and sent back by the Chinese and two were imprisoned, he said.

The family members now in Beijing were at particular risk of punishment because one of the teenage sons had contributed drawings to a book published in South Korea that depicted the hardships of life in the North, a United Nations official said.

While the family members had originally requested passage to South Korea, they are instead first being sent to "a third country," one Asia diplomat said. South Korea has said they would grant them asylum, but China would not have sent them directly to Seoul for fear of offending North Korea, a long time ally.

Hundreds of North Koreans have quietly made their way to the south in the past few years, generally via China or Mongolia, diplomats said.


North Koreans in China Press U.N. on Asylum Issue
Source: The New York Times
Date: June 27, 2001
By: Elizabeth Rosenthal

BEIJING, China -- Seven illegal immigrants from North Korea sneaked past Chinese security guards today into the local office of the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, saying they would not leave until they had been granted political refugee status and guaranteed safe passage to South Korea.

The incident forced the United Nations and China to confront head on a problem they have mostly tried to avoid: what to do about the steady stream of North Koreans who have been slipping illegally across the border into China in recent years.

Although most come to China primarily in search of food &Mac247; aid groups estimate that up to two million people have died in the food shortages that have afflicted North Korea for six years &Mac247; many migrants say they would face political persecution if they returned home.

As many as 200,000 North Koreans are living illegally in China, aid groups along the border say. The people who sought refuge here today are part of an extended family of 17 who have been living underground in China since 1999, a Japanese journalist who accompanied the group said.

By this evening, after United Nations officials here had interviewed the group, a spokesman for the high commissioner in Geneva, Ron Redmond, said, "We believe that these people deserve asylum."

That judgment sets the stage for a confrontation between the United Nations agency and the Chinese government, an ally of North Korea.

The government in Beijing has long insisted that the North Koreans are economic immigrants who should be returned home if apprehended, a position that the Foreign Ministry reiterated today.

"Judging from international law and their purpose for crossing into China, they are not refugees," said a ministry spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyue. "There is no refugee issue between China and North Korea."

But under United Nations conventions that China has signed, people with political refugee status cannot be forcibly returned to their home countries, although they may be resettled in a third country.

Mr. Redmond said of the seven North Koreans that the refugee agency was "seeking assistance to find a solution for them with all concerned authorities."

In Seoul today, a spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry, Kim Eui Taek, said his government would accept the North Koreans "if China and the U.N.H.C.R. agree to let them go."

Until now, United Nations officials had said little about whether any of the underground North Koreans in China should be considered political refugees, although they have privately acknowledged that at least some probably qualify. But today, Mr. Redmond called the seven in Beijing "just the tip of the iceberg."

Part of the problem is that China has not allowed United Nations inspectors to travel freely to the areas where most of the immigrants live, making it impossible to interview them to determine their status.

The United Nations group has also been concerned that if it pushed too hard for access or openly stated that China was harboring political refugees from its ally, the government might respond by sealing off the border entirely, depriving starving North Koreans of a crucial lifeline.

Much of the border consists of the shallow Tumen River. And North Koreans routinely slip over to obtain food and basic provisions like candles, soap and medicine.

Although Beijing insists that the Koreans are economic immigrants who should not be in China, many local officials are sympathetic and tend to turn a blind eye as long as the immigrants cause no trouble.

The Korean side of the border has frequent guard posts. On the Chinese side, except at official crossings, there are just fields, orchards and rolling hills — not a soldier in sight.


North Korea May Get Help Under European Plan
Source: The New York Times
Date: May 15, 2001
By: Suzanne Daley

PARIS, France -- The European Union announced today that it would open diplomatic relations with North Korea to help Pyongyang solve its food and health crisis.

The European group also said it planned to support peace efforts between the two Koreas, which never signed a treaty after their war ended in a highly armed truce in July 1953.

In a brief statement in Brussels, the commission said it hoped that the move would "facilitate the European Community's efforts in support of reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula and, in particular, in support of economic reform and easing of the acute food and health problems" in the North. But the statement gave no details on when and how ties would be opened.

In Seoul, South Korea's Foreign Ministry hailed the move to open relations. Most members of the union have relations, with the exception of Ireland and France. Last week, France said it would not rush to embrace Pyongyang until the North improved its records on arms proliferation and human rights.

The European Union, which sent a delegation to Pyongyang this month, had already announced its intentions to expand its role in the region. That decision was announced shortly after the Bush administration said it was delaying its own talks with North Korea and ordering a policy review on resuming discussions.

At the time, Europe's effort to reach out was largely seen as a rebuke to Washington. But since then, both sides have said that they agree on European initiatives.

Last week, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage raised hopes that the United States would soon resume talks with North Korea when he said that the policy review was nearly complete and that he suspected that discussions would begin again "in the near future."

In Washington today, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell refused to criticize Europe's decision to establish relations. "That's a choice for the E.U. to make," Secretary Powell said in an interview on CNN. "I don't have anything to say about it."

General Powell did say he had been receiving regular reports from his European colleagues.

President Bush made clear in March that he was uncomfortable with continuing the fast-moving talks on the North Korean missile systems that the Clinton administration had pushed. When President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea visited the White House in March, Mr. Bush said he did not trust North Korea.

Relations between the two Koreas warmed significantly after a historic summit meeting between their leaders in Pyongyang in June. But contacts stalled after Mr. Bush took a more hawkish stand on regional security than President Bill Clinton.

In recent days, North Korea has lashed out at South Korea and the United States, saying Washington's plans for a missile system would bring only death and destruction. Earlier at talks with the European delegation, Kim Jong Il, promised that his nation would keep a moratorium on its missile tests until at least 2003.


News October 2000

Mandela Suggests Park in Korea DMZ
Source: The New York Times
Date: March 12, 2001
By: The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Nelson Mandela proposed Monday that a "peace park" be built in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, one of the Cold War's last frontiers.

Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of South Africa, made the suggestion at a dinner with fellow prize winner South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, government officials said.

Kim said he would relay the proposal to North Korea and discuss it, the presidential press service said.

"If we move forward with the spirit of reconciliation and generosity your excellency showed, I believe there will be a bigger advancement in our history of reconciliation and cooperation (between the two Koreas)," Kim said at the dinner.

Also Monday, Mandela toured an exhibit of photographs, books and sculptures dedicated to him.

"All this makes me feel close to South Korea, which has been fully democratized," Mandela said in front of a sculpture of him holding the prison bars in a solitary cell.

A fighter against racial separation, or apartheid, Mandela, now 82, lived 18 of his 27 years in prison in a solitary cell in South Africa.

Mandela flew into Seoul on Saturday for his first meeting with Kim.

Although they had never met, the two men kept in touch from afar. In 1995, Kim translated Mandela's autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom," into Korean.

When Kim ran for president two years later, he received a special gift from Mandela: an old wristwatch with a cracked leather band that Mandela wore in prison. Mandela hoped it would bring good luck to Kim, who went on to win the election.


North Korea Cancels Talks With South Korea
Source: The New York Times
Date: March 12, 2001
By: The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- In a blow to reconciliation on their divided peninsula, North Korea called off Cabinet-level talks with South Korea just hours before they were to begin Tuesday.

North Korean chief delegate Jon Kum Jin did not give a reason for the cancellation of talks in Seoul, but South Korean analysts speculated that the Pyongyang government was concerned by tougher talk from the new U.S. administration.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung returned Sunday from Washington, where President Bush told him that he was skeptical of North Korea and would not immediately resume negotiations on the North's missile program.

"North Korea may have delayed the meeting because it has not yet set its stance on how to cope with last week's Kim-Bush summit," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korea studies at Seoul's Dongguk University.

Bush said he supports Kim's policy of engaging the North, but South Korean officials worry privately that a hardline U.S. approach would slow the reconciliation process with the North that began last year.

In recent weeks, North Korea has angrily threatened to pull out of missile and nuclear accords with Washington.

"Considering various circumstances, we cannot participate in today's meeting," the South Korean government quoted Jon as saying in a telephone message relayed to his South Korean counterpart, Unification Minister Park Jae-kyu. There was no offer by North Korea to reschedule the talks.

Park expressed strong regret and urged that the meeting be held as soon as possible, his ministry said in a statement.

At the Cabinet-level talks, South Korean officials had planned to discuss and set new reconciliation projects for the rest of 2001.

Topics were to include the arrangement of more reunions of separated family members, sports games and other exchanges, and a planned visit to South Korea by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

South Korean officials did not speculate on why North Korea scuttled the meeting.

Kim Sung-han, a North Korea expert at the state-funded Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, also said the abrupt cancellation may have been an "indirect protest" against the Bush-Kim summit.

But he said it was unlikely to effect negotiations on the North Korean leader's expected visit to Seoul, an event viewed as a major gesture of friendship between two once-bitter enemies.

"Kim's visit, I believe, will be discussed by higher-level authorities in a more secretive environment," Kim Sung-han said.

On Monday, South Korea said it would ship $18 million of aid to the impoverished North in hopes of boosting rapprochement. Supplies include children's clothing, fruit, potatoes and medicine.

At Cabinet-level talks with the South in December, North Korea appealed for 500,000 kilowatts of free electricity but rejected a South Korean proposal to conduct an extensive joint survey of the North's energy situation, instead suggesting a limited study.

The Korean peninsula was divided into the communist North and pro-Western South in 1945. The 1950-53 Korean War between the two ended without a peace treaty, and their border remains sealed and heavily fortified.


N.Korea Abruptly Calls Off Cabinet - Level Talks
Source: The New York Times
Date: March 13, 2001
By: Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea abruptly postponed without explanation a cabinet-level meeting with South Korea on Tuesday, triggering speculation it may be upset with recent tough talk from the new Bush administration in Washington.

"North Korea informed us by telephone this morning that they could not attend the planned meeting," Kim Hyung-ki, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, said.

"We conveyed our regret over the decision and asked them to hold the meeting as soon as possible," he said. "The North's postponement seems to stem from internal reasons."

It is not unusual for the unpredictable North to cancel or postpone meetings, but the four-day meeting in Seoul was to be the first since South Korean President Kim Dae-jung returned from talks with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington.

Bush told Kim he was skeptical about North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Washington was reviewing thoroughly its policy toward the North.

Among the topics that were expected to be on the agenda this week was a return visit by Kim Jong-il.

The two Koreas have held four rounds of minister-level meetings on economic cooperation and reunions of divided families since the North and South Korean leaders met in a landmark summit in Pyongyang last June.

The two leaders agreed to try to end half a century of confrontation and the divided peninsula has seen an unprecedented thaw in relations since then.

Relations between North Korea and the United States had also begun to warm toward the end of the Clinton administration.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright became the highest ranking U.S. official to visit the North last November and Clinton himself was almost ready to fly to Pyongyang to seal a deal that would have mothballed North Korea's long-range missile program in his last days in office.

But in recent weeks, North Korea has responded to tougher talk from the Bush administration with some harsh rhetoric of its own, threatening to pull out of missile and nuclear accords with Washington.

On Tuesday, Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of North Korea's ruling Workers Party, launched a diatribe against the "U.S. imperialists large-scale airstrike against Iraq and moves to establish the "National Missile Defense" system (NMD)."

One of the chief arguments the Bush administration has deployed for the missile shield is the need to guard against terrorist attacks from "rogue states" such as North Korea, which has long-range missile capabilities and biological and chemical weapons.

The Korean peninsula was divided into communist North and pro-Western South in 1945. The 1950-53 Korea War ended in an armed truce that has never been replaced by a peace treaty.


News October 2000

U.S. Finds Rights Abuses in China, Colombia and Israel
The New York Times
Date: February 27, 2001
By: David E. Sanger

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 — The State Department concluded today that despite seven years of deepening American economic engagement with China, the human rights situation there had worsened significantly, with "intensified crackdowns" on religious organizations, political dissenters and "any person or group perceived to threaten the government."

The department's annual review of human rights in 195 countries and territories, the Bush administration's first, also offered a harsh assessment of how Israel dealt with Palestinian uprisings last year. It described Indonesia as a nation increasingly out of control, where random killings and lawlessness are becoming the norms.

And the report concluded that Colombia, whose president, Andrès Pastrana, is to meet Mr. Bush in the White House on Tuesday, is far from bringing paramilitary groups under control.

In what could prove a particularly sensitive section, the report concludes that in Colombia, where the United States is providing a $1.3 billion, two-year aid package, mostly military, "paramilitary forces find a ready support base within the military and police, as well as among local civilian elites in many areas."

While the report praises President Pastrana, it denounces massacres and abuses by private and government security forces in the struggle against leftist rebels.

The department's report was assembled and drafted largely during the Clinton administration. But Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, had time to review the findings and in a few sensitive chapters, particularly on Israel, to alter some wording, Bush administration officials said.

Today the administration, as expected, announced that the United States would pursue a resolution condemning China's record at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which is to meet in Geneva next month. The Clinton administration never succeeded in getting enough countries to join in the annual resolution to win passage, and it is unclear how much political capital the Bush administration is willing to expend to win support for a resolution that is almost certain to be defeated once again.

But the report poses a deeper problem for Mr. Bush: He must now choose the best path for influencing the rights records of other nations, a issue that vexed his predecessor for eight years.

Mr. Clinton insisted that over time, economic engagement with China would force the government to loosen its control over the political process. There is little evidence yet that the strategy is working, though the acting assistant secretary for human rights, Michael Parmly, noted today that "the Internet has resulted in some improvements" in China, "largely in spite of government actions to control it."

But he noted that in dealings in Tibet and in the crackdown on the Falun Gong and other religious groups, "the situation has worsened in significant areas."

At the same time, the report is also harshly critical of conditions in three countries where the United States has maintained nearly a full economic embargo: Cuba, Myanmar and North Korea. In each, the report found conditions were no better, and in some cases were worse.

Critics of both approaches — engagement and isolation — will find ammunition in the voluminous report (so voluminous that the State Department now publishes it only on a CD-ROM and on its Web site,

"Their dilemma is the same as the one Clinton faced," said Mike Jendrzejczyk, who follows Asia for Human Rights Watch. "It hasn't changed one iota. The issue hasn't been whether to engage, but how."

An early test of whether the administration plans to turn the findings into new policy may come as General Powell pursues the resolution against China.

He and Mr. Bush could press Mexico, or European allies, to support the resolution, or they could save their political influence for another issue. Diplomats at the State Department said it is too early to know how far General Powell is willing to go.

Clinton administration officials who worked on the early drafts of the report said today that after their brief review of it on the Internet, it appears largely unchanged.

"The key was Israel," one said, "and there they left the main conclusion, which is that there was excessive force on the Israeli side, and human rights violations on the Palestinian side as well."

On Colombia, the report concluded that while "the government's human rights record remained poor," still "there were some improvements in the legal framework and in institutional mechanisms."

The report for the first time explicitly discussed links between the United States-backed Colombian security forces and paramilitary groups, whose attacks are increasing, saying such collusion ranged from allowing the militia members to pass through roadblocks to sharing intelligence and ammunition.

President Pastrana, who was in Washington today, said his government was developing a strategy to crack down on such groups, including efforts to disrupt their financing. He said conditions "are improving, though there is still much work to be done in this area."

Despite a similarly grim portrait of conditions in Colombia last year, President Clinton waived a series of human rights benchmarks mandated by Congress in order for the military aid to flow.

Bush officials say their Colombia policy is still under review.


North Koreans Join Relatives in the South as Putin Visits
The New York Times
Date: February 27, 2001
By: Don Kirk

SEOUL, South Korea, Feb. 26 — A group of 100 people arrived here from North Korea this afternoon for the third round of visits for long-lost relatives, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia arrived for a two-day visit, with inter-Korean relations high on the agenda.

For President Kim Dae Jung, preparing to receive Mr. Putin on Tuesday, the events dramatized his policy of "sunshine" vis-y´-vis North Korea.

When Mr. Putin's predecessor, Boris N. Yeltsin, visited Korea in 1992 for the last Russian-South Korean summit meeting here, Mr. Kim observed, "inter-Korean relations were not in such a state of improvement as now." Under those circumstances, he added in an interview with Russia's ORT television, "we could not consider trilateral projects of cooperation between North and South Korea and Russia."

That remark suggested that Mr. Kim would be receptive to Russian proposals for a wide range of projects that might link the two Koreas to Russia, notably construction of a railroad from the Russian border with North Korea, down the east coast of the Korean peninsula, into South Korea.

More important, however, Mr. Kim sees Mr. Putin as able to use Russia's influence with North Korea to encourage it to drop still more barriers to rapprochement.

For rapprochement in action, though, one had only to witness the third round of family visits, in each of which 100 people have gone from South Korea to Pyongyang while 100 have come from North Korea to Seoul. The visits grew out of Mr. Kim's visit to Pyongyang last June to meet North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il.

"It's a miracle," said Kim Sin Soo, 91, referring to her oldest son, Chung Doo Myong, 66. He disappeared in the North Korean occupation of Seoul in 1950, and she had long since given him up for dead.

She was accompanied by her three other children, including her youngest son, Chung Doo Ho, 55, whose life has taken a different turn. He moved to Los Angeles 20 years ago as a manager in a Korean company.

Chung Doo Ho, who was 5 when, he said, his older brother was "kidnapped," did not recognize his brother but showed an old photograph of him. Their mother has prayed in front of that photo every morning for more than 50 years, the younger brother said.

"We all thought he was dead," he said. "We didn't expect to see him like this. But when we exchanged names for the meeting, we were all shocked, amazed."

Chung Doo Myong's career was almost as surprising.

He had been a trumpeter in his school band in Seoul, and he said he had been assigned to the North Korean Navy band, sent to a music college and spent his career writing songs of praise for North Korea's leaders, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994, and Kim Jong Il, the former leader's son. To prove it, he showed certificates presented by both the father and the son.

He had, he told his brothers, "enjoyed life in North Korea because I can do everything I want," a privilege that he attributed to the favor of both North Korean leaders.


U.S. Again Criticizes China For Human Rights Violations
The New York Times
Date: February 26, 2001
By: David Stout

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 - The State Department's annual report on the status of human rights around the world was issued today, and it makes for dry reading in stretches. Then there is the the story of a man named Li Lusong.

Mr. Li's name appears in the section on China that says for the year 2000, as before, "deaths in custody due to police use of torture to coerce confessions" continued to be a problem. The State Department cited a number of "unconfirmed but credible" reports from human rights monitors in making that assertion. It also announced that the United States would sponsor a resolution criticizing China at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva next month.

The department said it had been informed that Mr. Li, who lived in Shanxi Province, went to local Communist Party officials to complain about the rundown condition of the village primary school. He was kicked and beaten by the police, which only spurred him to post a notice complaining of official corruption.

"After he posted the comments, local police detained him and used a stun gun and pliers to pull out his tongue and cut it off with a knife," the State Department report said.

Over all, the department said, China's "poor human rights record worsened, and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses."

The State Department's dim view of human rights, or the lack thereof, in the world's most populous country was no surprise and was reminiscent of previous reports. But this year's report may be more significant than usual, since it coincides with the start of George W. Bush's presidency. The State Department's sponsorship of a critical resolution could signal a tougher stance toward China.

The full text of the human rights report can be read on the State Department's web site:

The department said human rights abuses continued to occur in countries where they have long been commonplace: Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, Afghanistan. It said, too, that Israel had sometimes used excessive force in controlling Palestinian demonstrations - and that the Palestinian Authority had committed many abuses in turn.

Some American policymakers have questioned the wisdom of criticizing China, arguing that it will not change anything in a huge country that Washington must deal with. And other countries have found reasons to criticize the United States, notably because it continues to have capital punishment in 38 of the 50 states.

But other policymakers have said it is important that the United States articulate its principles and speak up for what is right.

Among the findings in the report on China were these:

- The government continued to restrict the press and curtail citizens' movements.

- Courts are influenced by "policy guidance" from the government and the Communist Party, "whose leaders use a variety of means to direct courts on verdicts and sentences in political sensitive cases ... Corruption and conflicts of interest also affect judicial decision-making."

- Lawyers who try to defend their clients vigorously "continue to have problems with police and prosecutors," especially in death-penalty cases, of which there are many.


Pyongyang Memo: North Koreans, Belts Tight, Cobble Up a Future
The New York Times
Date: February 25, 2001
By: Elisabeth Rosenthal

PYONGYANG, North Korea: For most of a decade marked by shortages of food, fuel and other commodities North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, has exhorted his people to do more with less. And today, belt-tightening has even seeped into this capital city's fanciest hotel, the Koryo. Lights are kept dim, making it difficult to read. Well-furnished rooms hover just above freezing, warmed by space heaters.

In a place where Americans may not leave the hotel unescorted and television sets have only one channel, guests spend a lot of time looking down at Pyongyang from 15 floors up. Insight comes in snippets of conversation and glimpses caught through windows.

Along the broad, empty streets in and around Pyongyang, there are two notable forms of transportation: feet and a smattering of high-end cars, many of them Mercedes- Benzes. Buses exist, but they are far rarer.

Even on a bitterly cold day, what is most impressive in and around Pyongyang is the slow-moving stream of humans along every highway and street: mostly women with brightly colored head scarves and dark padded jackets of gray, blue or brown, lugging large cloth packs, sometimes fixed to frames of sticks.

Reminders of the late Kim II Sung, the Great Leader, are ubiquitous in Pyongyang and just about everywhere else in the country he founded.

Where are they going?

In these hard times, they are trading goods with friends or taking food to relatives, foreigners who have lived in North Korea say. They report to work, even if fuel shortages have forced their factory to operate at half speed, because government food allotments are tied to working.

And, on Fridays, they build monuments.

On a recent Friday afternoon, on a road heading out of the capital, white apartment blocks suddenly gave way to huge piles of dirt, and hundreds of busy men and women clustered around red banners. Each flag carries the name of a state work unit and these people — mobilized from jobs as clerks, engineers and factory workers and the like — are building a large new monument celebrating the hoped-for eventual reunification of the two Koreas.

They haul tiles, dig and transport dirt — plugging along in freezing temperatures. In a country desperately short of spare parts and fuel, it is a decidedly low-tech operation. Shovels and picks rather than mechanized backhoes clear the ground.

In this way — with lots of manpower and few machines — the North Koreans have completed their public works projects in recent years, including a superhighway from Pyongyang to Nampo.

After a snow, Pyongyang is pristine under a bright blue sky, and it stays that way until the temperature rises, because there are apparently no snowplows. A landscape of whites, grays and tans is broken only by immense colorful portraits of Kim Il Sung, the country's founder (known as the Great Leader), or that of his son, "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il.

A number of street corners boast these paintings, dominated by bright reds and blues, or statues the size of small houses. Hospital lobbies sport portraits of father, son or both communing with nurses. Schoolmasters treasure their picture of the Kims teaching enthusiastic students. Every person wears an enamel red pin bearing the senior Kim's likeness. No conference room is portrait-free.

Though neither Kim is seen in person by ordinary Koreans (the father is dead; the son famously reclusive), their personal touch is everywhere. At the University Hospital in Pyongyang, for instance, the only CAT scan — a Hitachi — was a 1991 birthday gift from Kim Jong Il, a proud doctor said. At the Folk Museum, a beautiful inlaid cabinet he once owned is set apart from the other furniture, displayed in a special glass case.

Kim Jong Il himself ordered the creation of a live-in preschool in Pyongyang to ease the burden on mothers who work — like journalists, artists and teachers — the school's headmistress gratefully explained. A middle-aged woman in a flowing traditional Korean dress, she added that it was Mr. Kim himself who wisely advised the teachers of the September 15th Kindergarten to "adjust the routine according to the age of the child."

Mr. Kim composed a piano piece that a young virtuoso performed at a school recital, she said. And in the cafeteria, the weekly menu (framed and hung) was devised for its nutritional content by you-know-who. Apparently no detail is too small for the attention of Mr. Kim, a kind of Leona Helmsley-cum-world-leader.

And on the surface at least, he seems to have won the reverence of North Koreans — at least those allowed to talk to foreign journalists. When a reporter put her backpack down to tie her shoe in front of a portrait, several people spontaneously rushed over to chastise her for being disrespectful.

But of course, from birth North Koreans are taught whom to believe in. At orphanages and preschools, children sing songs about "trusting the Great Leader."

They are also taught whom to hate.

At one school, a group of 5- and 6- year-old boys performing for some American visitors sang a brisk, hate- filled ditty directed at the Japanese for their often repressive occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. With each chorus, the small boys pantomimed shooting Japanese policemen.

(Japan is now a major provider of food aid to the North. An unbidden thought: Had the audience this day been Japanese aid donors, would the target have been Americans?)

At Pyongyang's chilly but interesting Folk Museum, a friendly tour- guide committed the political equivalent of a Freudian slip as she lectured six visiting Americans about traditional fishing techniques: After searching for the English name for a fish (it was perch), and chatting about the difficulties of translating for English speakers, she referred to Americans as "U.S. imperia. . . " — before catching herself. Old habits.

And it is, similarly, sometimes hard for a "U.S. imperialist" to see past North Korea's reputation as the world's strangest "rogue state" and perhaps the world's most heavily militarized country for its size.

Foreign experts estimate that about 5 percent of North Koreans — one million people — are in the armed forces. And soldiers, like scraggly mountains, are ubiquitous features of the North Korean landscape.

In Pyongyang, soldiers in gray- green padded winter uniforms dot the streets. They shovel snow or repair roads. Unsmiling, they man the checkpoints that ring the capital, deciding who may enter and who will be turned away.

On one drive out of Pyongyang, several soldiers — guns in hand and cornstalks waving out of their backpacks for camouflage — were marching over a low hill, apparently engaged in military exercises. Even at tourist sites, soldiers out to see the sights are numerous enough that the government's prohibition on photographing military personnel can make it difficult to take a snapshot.

Against this backdrop, it is easy for foreigners to jump to conclusions: On a recent snowy Friday, a small group of visitors representing Western aid groups were bused to the Tong Myun Tombs on the outskirts of Pyongyang. (Work and meetings were out of the question because — it being Friday — so many North Koreans were busy with monuments.) Suddenly, a distant thuk- thuk-thuk sounded over the hills. The foreigners agreed that it sounded like gunfire. One finally asked: "What's that?"

Their young North Korean minder smiled and said: "Just a tractor. But you Americans! You thought it was a tank! Right?"

Still, here and there, one sees small signs of change. At the Koryo Hotel, staff members who two years ago were by all accounts surly and distant are now warm and hospitable, bringing hot water and extra blankets to compensate for the lack of heat.

With the state providing less food, the government has even tolerated a whiff of private enterprise. City dwellers raise pigs and chickens in apartments. The private farmers markets — which used to occur two or three times a month — are now daily occurrences. Along the roadside, a woman was selling cigarettes, most likely smuggled from China, from under her coat.

And money — even foreign currency — is creeping into what was previously a nearly cashless economy, where people lived on government provisions. In the past, holding American dollars was dangerous; ordinary people had few places to spend them and faced certain trouble if the security forces found out. But today, dollar bills have become a much-valued currency.

And some people seem to have a lot of them. While the Koryo Hotel is short on light and heat, its first-floor restaurant still serves an impressive bulgogi, a traditional Korean beef barbecue. And though the food is expensive — and priced in dollars — the restaurant is generally packed, with foreign guests as well as a number of North Koreans.

At the cashier's desk on a recent night, three young men wearing remarkably well-tailored black Mao- type suits and Kim Il Sung pins chatted casually as the waitress tallied their tab, a long mix of food and alcohol. When she announced the total, no one blinked. One nonchalantly pulled a crisp $100 bill out of his wallet.


Collapse of Health System Adds to North Korea's Crisis
The New York Times
Date: February 20, 2001
By: Elisabeth Rosenthal

PYONGSONG, North Korea: In the dim light of their frigid ward at the South Pyongan Provincial Children's Hospital, Kim Yuk and Kwang Sun listlessly fingered the small colored blocks that had been placed on their bed. They were too weak to be interested and too cold tocome out from under their thick red covers anyway. It was 10 below outside, and a pot-bellied stove provided the room's only heat.

So they huddled, side by side, in deep layers of tattered sweaters under striped hospital pajamas, sharing both a bed and a miserable fate.

Though 12, the boys were the size of 8- or 9-year-olds, because for too many years they had had too little to eat. But this winter they are suffering life-threatening malnutrition, after coming down with a seemingly minor ailment, diarrhea, that their weakened bodies could not withstand. As with the six other children in their cramped, cement-walled room, their eyes peer out of hollow sockets, their arms protrude like kindling out of sleeves, scabs cover their skin, they are losing their hair.

And even this major hospital has little to give them, after a record poor harvest, during North Korea's coldest winter in 50 years.

"We are using things like antibiotics and painkillers, but on a very small scale due to the shortages," said Dr. Soh Hun Chul, the hospital's director, whose long white coat covered a pin of the late "Great Leader," Kim Il Sung, worn by all North Koreans. "We have lots of patients suffering from various diseases, but do not have enough medicine or equipment or food to properly treat them."

After nearly a decade of crisis, the human tragedy in North Korea continues to outpace and outwit relief efforts. North Koreans are less hungry than during the worst food shortages, in 1997, thanks in large part to international aid, United Nations officials say. But the ongoing deterioration of the country's infrastructure — particularly its health and sanitation systems and its energy supply — has left many North Koreans in a continued downward spiral.

"It's not enough to give food, if hospitals have no medicines and the water supply is contaminated," said David Morton, United Nations coordinator in Pyongyang, the capital. "Malnutrition in Korea is a combination of shortage of food, breakdown of the health system and poor water supply. People who are weakened by years of hunger get sick very easily and are very vulnerable."

A recent trip with AmeriCares, the private, United States-based relief organization in North Korea to inspect the progress of its aid projects in hospitals and orphanages in and around Pyongyang was filled with scenes and tales of deprivation like these:

- neck operation being done under local anesthesia because the medicines required for general anesthesia were in short supply.

- crowded patients' ward so cold that ice formed on the floor after it was mopped.

- Doctors forced to hammer out their own operating tools in a backyard metal shop.

- teenage boy whose broken leg was immobilized with planks of wood and strips of gauze because there was no casting material.

The trip in early February was planned and chaperoned by representatives of the North Korean government, and no photographs were permitted. But the evidence of dire health conditions was bolstered by interviews with foreign aid workers and medical experts who travel extensively in North Korea — driving their vehicles through rivers because there is no way to repair bridges and staying in hotels without heat or running water.

"The health sector has just collapsed," said one aid worker, who like most spoke on condition of anonymity. "You probably have more in your home medicine chest than some county hospitals here have."

Mr. Morton, of the United Nations, said schools, hospitals and clinics all contain what the Korean government calls "weak children," children who have been chronically underfed. A nutritional survey by United Nations experts in 1998 found that 63 percent of North Korean children were stunted — or too small for their age — a result of long-term undernourishment that experts worry will impair the intellectual development of an entire generation.

While most foreigners who work here agree that cases of acute malnutrition are rarer now than they were four years ago, some said there appeared to be a recent surge with the unusually cold winter. And they worry that malnutrition is likely to worsen this spring, because last fall's drought-plagued rice crop was down 30 percent from 1999. Food supplies meant to tide people over through this poor harvest are already running out.

"We give people subsistence--it's not a complete diet, so people slowly get more and more run down," one foreign expert said. "Reported malnutrition is probably artificially low since we all see these `weak kids' when we go to hospitals. And there's got to be high mortality this winter. It's simple logic: There's not enough food, no health care, and it's been very, very cold."

Until North Korea went into economic free fall in the early 1990's, all citizens received the staples of life--food, housing, clothing, jobs and medical care — free from the government. Food was meted out each week through a national distribution system. Everyone was assigned a primary care doctor in a well-organized health system that ranged from village clinics to national referral centers.

Only the shell of that system survives. North Korean officials and doctors date their problems to the "natural calamities" — flood and droughts--of the mid-90's. But that phrase is partly a euphemism for a deeper blow to the economy: with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, North Korea lost its main trading partner and biggest benefactor.

Immediately, people stopped getting enough to eat. Then the nation slowly spent down its accumulated stockpiles, its scant energy resources and its infrastructure to a point where there is little left.

Pump irrigation systems--crucial to farming--sat idle for lack of fuel. Commodities like spare tires, X-ray film and antibiotics were used up and could not be replaced. Factories slowed or halted production, lacking power and raw materials. There was no foreign currency for imports.

The state-run health system was particularly hard hit.

"We have many needs now," said Dr. Li Yong Chun, deputy director of the People's Tae Dong Gang District Hospital in Pyongyang. "Sure we have pharmaceutical factories, but because of the lack of, well, everything--raw materials, electricity, transport--they don't run in full."

Five years into North Korea's "food emergency," many experts say, food shortages, though still very serious, are no longer the country's most pressing problem. International aid groups now help feed 8 million of its 20 million people. And by now, many North Koreans have found ways to supplement that aid: raising their own chickens and vegetables, or buying food in the private farmer's markets that the government increasingly tolerates.

But personal enterprise cannot provide clean water, heat and health care, which are supplied exclusively by the state.

Said a foreign medical expert: "You have a socialist health system where everything used to come from the state, and now the state is bankrupt. So what do you do? It's not like there's a private market where people can go buy medicines."

He said doctors had died of radiation sickness because, lacking X-ray film, they stand next to patients undergoing tests to check results on a fluoroscopy screen. In some rural areas, hospitals are growing cotton to make bandages, he said.

Some hospitals have received supplies from foreign aid groups. The International Red Cross, for example, supplies a number of county- level hospitals, and AmeriCares provides pharmaceuticals to hospitals in and around Pyongyang. The United States-based Eugene Bell Foundation supports the country's tuberculosis treatment program, and doctors in the far north get some medications smuggled in from China. But Mr. Morton said medical assistance had fallen well short of needs.

Doctors say lower-level hospitals and clinics are generally worse off, with little more than traditional herbal medicines at their disposal. Pyongyang has been spared the worst deprivation, they say, both in terms of food and health care.

But even the capital is obviously running at three-quarters speed. Stores have few goods. Rooms are barely heated, and lights are dimmed. And sprawling Kim Il Sung University Hospital, the country's best, has fallen on hard times.

Its exterior is bedecked with huge portraits of Kim Il Sung and of his son, the current leader, Kim Jong Il. Inside, pharmacists wear mittens as they compound medicines with mortars and pestles, and patients in thick jackets pad like ghosts through cavernous, unlit halls.

On a recent morning's tour, the only warm place in the building was a suite of operating rooms, which nonetheless had the feel of a field hospital, with blood pressure being monitored by hand during surgery and IV fluid dripping into patients' arms from sterilized soda bottles. Scant supplies of general anesthesia were hoarded for only the most serious cases, surgeons said.

"We have treatment plans, but we have trouble with procurement," said Dr. Ryu Hwan Su, a surgeon and the hospital's deputy director.

Doctors in the capital said they relied heavily on herbal medicines, though they did not consider them very effective.

At Tae Dong Gang District Hospital in Pyongyang, 15-month-old Li Pongmi, who coughed noisily in a carrier on her mother's back, had just been diagnosed with pneumonia. It was a typical examining room scene, except that everyone was fully bundled: doctor in an overcoat and mother wearing a padded jacket, her head swathed in a thick scarf.

The little girl would not be hospitalized for her illness; it was too cold for that. And although she was given an injection of penicillin, she would not complete the normal 10-day course. "First we give Western medicines for a little while, and then, as patients start to recover, we switch to herbal medicines," said Dr. Li Yong Chun, the hospital's deputy director.

Despite such hardships, there is a certain normalcy to life in this isolated land. In Pyongyang, people line up at the bus stop and ride to work, even if their factory is not producing much. On the road northeast to Pyongsong, past one of many military checkpoints, the craggy hills are dotted with neat, white houses, and children, enjoying holidays for the Lunar New Year and Kim Jong Il's birthday, play on homemade sleds.

But it is a normalcy easily upset, in a country with scant personal or institutional reserves.

Earlier this winter, Kim Yuk, the 12-year-old patient in the South Pyongan Provincial Children's Hospital, was out there playing, too. Though clearly stunted, he said he had never been seriously ill before.

But then he came down with diarrhea, which tipped him over the edge. When he was admitted to the hospital in mid-January, his kidneys had shut down, his body was swollen, and his blood pressure was critically low.

Digestive problems are common here, partly because so many people stretch their supplies of edible grains with inedible filler, like corn husks. Infectious diarrhea is a problem because the country has neither electricity nor chlorine to ensure clean water.

What would be a minor ailment in otherwise healthy children can turn life-threatening in the chronically undernourished like Kim Yuk.

Doctors say he needs more than 2,500 calories a day to recover. But Dr. Soh, the hospital director, said he has only been able to provide meals of rice and porridge, supplemented by snacks he brings from home.

"The hospital does its best to help, but it's really not enough," he said.

Likewise, he said, for patients who should have operations but will not, except in emergencies — because of the lack of anesthesia, electricity, sterilization equipment and decent surgical tools. And likewise for the tens if not hundreds of thousands of North Koreans who suffer from active tuberculosis, but will not be treated.

"They don't die here like they did in Ethiopia," one medical expert said, referring to the high toll from starvation there several years ago. "They get some food. They share. But then they get a respiratory illness or diarrhea or they need minor surgery-- which can't be done properly because there are no antibiotics--and then they die."


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