North Korea Freedom Week 2023 Acknowledgements

20th Annual North Korea Freedom Week
September 17-September 23, 2023
Seoul

NKFW 2023: “Let’s End Kim Jong Un’s Hereditary Dictatorship to Liberate the People of North Korea who are the Slaves of Juche Ideology.”

Dear Friends:

For my opening introduction, Nancy Purcell summed up the 20th North Korea Freedom Week the best, so I am just going to quote her as she has been to nearly every single NKFW since we started this event in 2004 to promote the freedom, human rights, and dignity of the North Korean people. She knows best as an impartial observer, so here’s Nancy: “This year’s NKFW was the best yet, in my opinion. I sensed a new spirit among the North Korea defectors;one of hope, boldness, and courage. They were united in their messaging throughout the week’s events; united among the defectors who have been out of decades and those who escaped just this year. There was unity of purpose and focus as well among the Koreans, Japanese, and Americans. The top purpose and focus are to get information into North Korea by air, land, and sea with promises to spend more time, effort, and money towards that goal. I am excited to see that vision of bombarding North Korea with the truth come to fruition!” I agree with that message! Please enjoy this summary report that Johnny Park prepared for you.

Acta Non Verba,

Suzanne Scholte
Chair, North Korea Freedom Week 2023

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Save North Korea Refugees Day Report 2023

Activists Worldwide Call on Xi Jinping:
Stop Repatriating North Koreans

Dear Friends:

Despite many years of advocacy and worldwide attention by so many of you, it was devastating to learn that China has started the repatriation of children, women, and men back to North Korea. It is unclear if the entire 2,600 that have been detained since COVID have all been sent back or if only half of them have been forcefully repatriated in groups of hundreds, but this advocacy must continue.

Even though it is extremely discouraging, we must continue this work and we should reflect on some significant developments that have resulted from your efforts as advocates for the North Korean refugees:

First, the UN Special Rapporteur, Elizabeth Salmon, and three UN working groups have spoken out strongly on this issue as well as the Special Envoys for South Korea, Ambassador Shin-wha Lee, and the United States, Ambassador Julie Turner.

Second, Xi Jinping and the CCP in China know that what they are doing is wrong, and they know the world is watching. Hence, the reason they are trying to do this quietly because of your success in raising awareness of this crisis.

Third, this will continue to be an issue until the tyranny of the communist regimes in North Korean and China end. 

Fourth, never underestimate the power of your actions and your words even if it sometimes seems in vain. I have shared this with many of you before but I had thought about how hopeless it all seemed until I met three different individuals: two North Korean women who had been victims of trafficking who had contemplated suicide and one South Korean man who had been beaten and tortured in jail in China. When they heard that people like you were standing up for them, it gave them the hope to live, to survive. You gave them the will to continue because they knew they were not suffering unknown and alone.

So, we pause briefly here for a moment with this report prepared for you by Johnny Park as we thank and show our great respect to the folks listed in these pages who raised their voices against great evil to be a voice for those who could not speak.

The fight goes on.

Acta Non Verba,

Suzanne Scholte

Designed by Grayson Jang, Defense Forum Foundation
Continue reading “Save North Korea Refugees Day Report 2023”

Urging Action for Human Rights in North Korea

A Call to Support Crucial Legislation

In the face of daily hardships and human rights abuses, the people of North Korea persist. Yet, their struggle often remains unheard on the global stage. As we sit comfortably in our homes, we must remember our responsibility to use our freedoms to give voice to the voiceless.

This summer, we are partnering with the Korean Church Coalition (KCC) to urge Congress to take action on important legislation regarding human rights and freedom in North Korea. These bipartisan bills and resolutions, introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives, are aimed at alleviating the suffering of North Koreans and holding the Kim regime accountable for ongoing crimes against humanity.

Please join us in supporting the passage of these bills by signing our petition. The petition will be delivered to all members of Congress in mid-July by members of the Korean Church Coalition (KCC) during their annual visit to the nation’s capital who will be joined by members of the North Korea Freedom Coalition.

Otto Warmbier Way

Please click here to sign our petition supporting the renaming of East 44th Street and 2nd Avenue Otto Warmbier Way.

Otto Warmbier was a 22-year-old American student who was arrested in North Korea in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel. He was released from North Korean custody in June 2017 in a comatose state and died just days after his return to the United States.

Warmbier was a student at the University of Virginia, where he was studying economics and had a bright future ahead of him. He was in China as part of a study abroad program when he decided to take a brief trip to North Korea. After his arrest, Warmbier was forced to make a public confession to the crime of stealing the propaganda poster, which many believe was coerced. He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, which he spent in captivity until his release.

Warmbier’s release came after months of diplomatic efforts by the US government. However, Warmbier’s tragic condition upon his return to the US quickly revealed the horrors he suffered at the hands of the Kim family regime. Warmbier’s family revealed that he had been in a coma for over a year and had suffered severe brain damage, likely as a result of physical torture and abuse during his captivity. The North Korean government denied any mistreatment, claiming that Warmbier had fallen into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill.

The death of Otto Warmbier is a tragic reminder of the dangers posed by the North Korean regime and the human rights violations committed against both foreign nationals, like Otto Warmbier, and against the citizens of North Korea.

NK Women Speaking Tour Report Coming Soon

Dear Donors and Supporters,

On behalf of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for your support of our spring 2023 North Korean women speaking tour. You have enabled us to bring the stories and experiences of North Korean women to the U.S. Congress, State Department, and the United Nations, shining a light on the dire human rights situation in the country and inspiring action towards change. We look forward to sharing our report on this week’s events with you soon.

Through our speaking tour, we have been able to give a voice to those who have been silenced for far too long. North Korean women have faced unimaginable hardships, including forced labor, sexual violence, and political oppression, yet they remain strong and resilient in the face of adversity. Your support has allowed us to amplify their voices and share their stories with the world.

However, our work is far from over. The human rights situation in North Korea remains dire, and the women we have brought to speak are just a few of the many who continue to suffer under the oppressive regime. We need your help to continue our mission of promoting human rights and freedom for the people of North Korea.

If you are able, we kindly request your additional support towards our ongoing efforts. Your contributions will help us continue to bring the stories of North Koreans to new audiences, advocate for policy changes to improve the human rights situation in the country, and support refugees who have escaped the regime.

Thank you once again for your generosity and support. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of the North Korean people.

North Korean Escapees:
Current Situation and What Must Be Done

You are cordially invited to join the Defense Forum Foundation’s Congressional Defense and Foreign Policy Forum online as we host three brave and inspiring women who escaped from North Korea.  Two of the witnesses are recent escapees who will be visiting the United States to share their stories for the first time.

Speakers:

LEE Haeun: survivor of 50 days of torture and detention for making phone calls to South Korea. After her husband was sent to a political prison camp for listening to South Korea broadcasts, she and her daughter escaped from North Korea in 2019 in one of the last groups to escape before the border shut down. 

JI Hannah: survivor of North Korea’s political prison camps and China’s detention centers, Ji was an entrepreneur who lost everything during the infamous currency devaluation.  She successfully defected in 2015 and then saved up enough money to risk her own life to go back to China to save her two sons in 2019.

HAN Song-Mi: escaped from North Korea in 2011 when her mother raised enough money to pay brokers to get her out of South Korea.  The trauma of her life led her to remain silent for a decade but now she is speaking out and has published her memoir co-written with Casey Lartigue of Freedom Speakers International: Greenlight to Freedom: A North Korean Daughter’s Search for Her Mother and Herself.

 *DFF’s Defense and Foreign Policy Forums were established in 1983 to provide Congressional staff the opportunity to hear from expert speakers in a nonpartisan, collegial atmosphere on important issues facing the United States and her allies.

Recent Escapees Plea for the Lives of North Koreans

Save Our Families Who Face Torture and Execution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 10, 2023

(Washington, D.C. and New York) The North Korea Freedom Coalition will host a series of events featuring recent escapees from North Korea to plea for the lives of North Koreans currently detained in China and those who face unspeakable and atrocious human rights violations every day under the regime of Kim Jong Un. From the day he came to power Kim Jong Un launched a brutal crackdown on those trying to escape that greatly escalated during the Covid induced border closure.  Thus, the number of escapees making it to South Korea plummeted from over 1000 in 2019 to only 67 in 2022, according to the South Korean Ministry of Unification.

Pastor Philip Lee of Unification Hope Mission, a North Korean escapee himself who now helps rescue escapees said, “there are between 600 to 1000 North Korea children, women and men currently detained in China who risk repatriation when the border re-opens as China has a policy of forced repatriation meaning that they are classified as political prisoners, subject to certain torture, detention, sentenced to life imprisonment, confined to political prison camps, and may even face public or secret executions.”

During the Covid pandemic, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and on Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as well as the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made a direct appeal to Xi Jinping to halt the reparations and consult with the U.N. mechanisms including the High Commissioners for Human Rights and for Refugees.  At the time, the Rapporteurs estimated that over one thousand had been detained since the border closure in January 2020.  Over 33,000 North Koreans have been safely resettled in the Republic of Korea. On March 20th during the upcoming 52nd Human Rights Council session, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation in the DPRK will “call for Member States, in particular China and the Russian Federation, to uphold the principle of non-refoulement to individuals from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who are at risk of serious human rights violations upon their forced repatriation.”

“This is a matter of extreme urgency,” explained NKFC Chairman Suzanne Scholte. “Anyone who escaped during the pandemic is at risk of execution if they are forced back, because they had to have the means to escape during COVID meaning they were elites OR had family in South Korea financing their rescue – those are crimes punishable by death in North Korea.” 

“Our witnesses will really underscore that point as two are mothers who rescued their children and one is a daughter whose mother rescued her!  All four are amazing women whose personal testimonies are living proof that when the women of North Korea one day enjoy the same human rights as South Koreans and Americans, North Korea can become as prosperous and successful as South Korea and not the current prison it is today,” she added. 

Further highlighting the families whose lives are in danger is the official translator for the visiting delegation: Esther Kim, a Korean American living in Virginia.  “My niece is like so many North Korean women, a victim of human traffickers in China, she was simply trying to escape an abusive relationship and get to South Korea where she can enjoy freedom, and where her other family members live.” 

Tragically, Kim’s niece was arrested in May of 2022 as she tried to escape through Mongolia and is now among those detained in China.  “We will plea to Xi Jinping: please save our families, allow safe passage for them to be reunited with their loved ones in South Korea,” Kim said. 

Another focus of the delegation’s visit is to highlight the fact that the atrocities occurring in North Korea today are as severe, and perhaps worse, than the well-known and documented suffering during the arduous march. 

“A lot of current media focus has understandably been on the threats the regime poses to South Korea and her allies, but we cannot lose sight of the threat this regime poses to its own people,” said NKFC Vice Chairman Jason West.  “Rather than focusing our attention on the Hwasung-17 ICBM necklace Kim Jong Un presented to his daughter and whether Kim Yo Jong is no longer in favor, we should be focusing on the noose Kim Jong Un has put around the necks of the daughters and sons of North Koreans and the suffering they experience totally because of him.”

NKFC has been bringing North Korean women to testify during the annual UN CSW gathering every year since 2016. “The UN CSW is the largest gathering of NGOs in the world, yet somehow our coalition was the first to raise the issue of North Korean women and most years we are the only ones focusing on this important issue,” said Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign. She added, “It’s amazing to me that every year we have many tell us they had no idea about the situation for women in North Korea. That is why we must continue to raise the voices of these women on behalf of all the oppressed in North Korea, until they are free.”

The events will conclude with a prayer vigil in front of the United Nations led by Pastor Star Lee of the Esther Prayer Movement who has mobilized weekly and monthly prayer vigils around the world for the people of North Korea.


North Korean Eyewitnesses presenting at events in Washington, D.C. and New York City will be:

LEE Haeun: survivor of 50 days of torture and detention for making phone calls to South Korea. After her husband was sent to a political prison camp for listening to South Korea broadcasts, she and her daughter escaped from North Korea in 2019 in one of the last groups to escape before the border shut down. 

JI Hannah: survivor of North Korea’s political prison camps and China’s detention centers, Ji was an entrepreneur who lost everything during the infamous currency devaluation.  She successfully defected in 2015 and then saved up enough money to risk her own life to go back to China to save her two sons in 2019.

HAN Songmi: escaped from North Korea in 2011 when her mother raised enough money to pay brokers to get her out of North Korea.  The trauma of her life led her to remain silent for a decade but now she is speaking out and has published her memoir co-written with Casey Lartigue of Freedom Speakers International: Greenlight to Freedom: A North Korean Daughter’s Search for Her Mother and Herself.

LEE Seohyun: was born to an elite family in Pyongyang, North Korea, where she had great privileges but when the extensive brutal purges began under the Kim Jong Un regime, her family defected to South Korea and relocated in the United States in 2016. She currently attends Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) graduate program.


Public Events for the Visiting Delegation Include

New York City on March 16, 2023

UN Commission on the Status of Women Panel sessionTHURSDAY, MARCH 16TH, 10:30 am-12:00 noon at the Salvation Army Auditorium, see link here: nkfc.link/CSW67 

3 pm Lay Flowers to Remember Otto Warmbier and all who have suffered because of  Kim Jong un at the DPRK Mission corner of 2nd Avenue and 43rd, New York

4:30 pm Flower Delivery to the Chinese Mission with a plea to allow safe passage to the children, women and men currently detained in China at 350 East 35th Street, New York

5:30-7 pm Prayer Vigil in front of the UN Headquarters hosted by the Esther Prayer Movement to pray for the North Korean people.

The Delegation is being hosted by the North Korea Freedom Coalition and its NGO members especially the Defense Forum Foundation, Esther Prayer Movement, Isabella Foundation, Jubilee Campaign.

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Save North Korean Refugee’s Day Report 2022

Organized by the North Korea Freedom Coalition

Activists Worldwide Call on Xi Jinping:
Stop Repatriating North Koreans

Dear Friends:

You cannot imagine the looks of sheer joy on the faces of the hundreds of North Korean escapees and South Korean human rights activists gathered near the Chinese embassy in Seoul in late September when we announced:  activists all over the world are sending appeals to Chinese embassies and consulates representing 18 countries and 55 cities! It meant so much for them to know that so many people care — and are willing to act — for the North Korean refugees in China. This Save North Korean Refugees Day 2022 was especially critical because we are running out of time as at least 600 children, men and women face the grave danger of repatriation once the border opens between China and North Korea – it is expected to happen soon. The following is a report prepared by Johnny Park to recognize these heroes and heroines all over the world that joined in solidarity for Save North Korean Refugees Day this year! We also thank Johnny and Teresa Ost for serving as our International Coordinators and helping prepare letters for our city and country coordinators.

For the refugees, we must continue to do all we can to advocate for their safe passage to the Republic of Korea but want to take the time to recognize these wonderful folks by name and countries below!

We also want to recognize these 22 former U.S. government officials who represent every U.S. presidency since Richard Nixon who have faithfully joined our advocacy appeals to the Republic of Korea for the past several years to show the United States’ solidarity and bipartisan support for action to save these refugees:  Richard V. Allen (Reagan and Nixon), Thomas Barker (Bush), Roberta Cohen, (Carter), John Despres (Carter, Reagan, Clinton), Chuck Downs (Bush), Felice Gaer (Obama and Bush), Chadwick R. Gore (Trump and Bush), Ambassador Robert G. Joseph (Bush), Ambassador Robert R. King (Obama), Jay P. Lefkowitz, (Bush), Ambassador Winston Lord, (Ford, Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton), Barton W. Marcois (Bush), Honorable Tidal W. McCoy (Reagan), Ambassador J. William Middendorf (Nixon, Ford, Reagan), Thomas C. Montgomery (Bush), Andrew Natsios (Bush), Daniel Pipes (Reagan), Eric Schwartz (Obama and Clinton), Gare Smith (Clinton), Ambassador Katrina Lantos Swett (Obama), Ambassador Morse Tan (Trump), and Christian Whiton (Bush, Trump).

Acta Non Verba,

Suzanne

Suzanne Scholte

Continue reading “Save North Korean Refugee’s Day Report 2022”