Recent Escapees Plea for the Lives of North Koreans

Save Our Families Who Face Torture and Execution


(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: 

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.

# # #

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 Scholte

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

North Korea Freedom Week 2022 Acknowledgements

No More Korea Slaves of the Kim Regime
No More Political Prisoners
No More Separated Families
No More Kim Jong Un Dictatorship
All Koreans Free: Let Us Lead the Way

Dear Friends:

It is a great honor to present to you the acknowledgements report for the 19th Annual North Korea Freedom Week prepared for you by Johnny Park.

The reactions felt by participants in NKFW 2022 throughout the week can be summed up as follows:

NKFW 2023: Pyongyang!

Seriously, you could feel this great sense of purpose and commitment among the North Korean defector leaders and the South Korea activists who helped organize this year’s NKFW. Despite the hostility and great repression, the human rights cause and these North Korean escapees endured during the Moon administration, these men and women would not lose hope, but remain resolved. There was this sense that everything could change very quickly if they could just get the support they needed to accomplish their objective: the peaceful unification of Korea as a liberal democracy. We emphasized throughout the week the importance of saving the North Korean refugees in China, calling for the release of all those being held against their will in North Korea, and re-launching what had been a most successful information campaign by land, by sea, by air. Kim Heung Kwang, the NKFW Task Force Chair, summed it up best: “each event was done to the highest quality.”

NKFW 2022 had more media coverage than ever before and our annual Save North Korean Refugees Day had more cities involved than ever before. The success of the week can be attributed to all the folks listed in the following pages who took part in this year’s events.

Acta Non Verba so we can have NKFW in Pyongyang,


Suzanne Scholte
Chair, North Korea Freedom Week 2022

Continue reading “North Korea Freedom Week 2022 Acknowledgements”

Save North Korean Refugees Day 2022

Dear North Korea Freedom Coalition Members and Friends:

Where in the world will you be on Friday, September 30th? 

Please consider taking part in Save North Korean Refugees Day by Mailing or Emailing a letter to Xi Jinping:  In Solidarity with the North Korean defector NGOs and South Korean human rights leaders who are organizing the 19th annual North Korea Freedom Week, Friday, September 30th has been designated as the date for our annual Save North Korea Refugees Day.  We are inviting everyone to participate that day by mailing or emailing a letter to Xi Jinping requesting that the PRC allow safe passage to the North Korean children, women and men currently being detained in Chinese detention centers for entering China illegally.  All we are asking is for China to honor its international treaty obligations and allow these refugees safe passage out of China. That is all.

Here is all you need to do to participate:

1) Find the PRC embassy or consulate that is in your jurisdiction at this link:

2) Send a letter of appeal by mail or email to Xi Jinping at that address on or before Friday, September 30th  We have several sample templates you can use at

And, if you are willing to share…

3) snap a picture or you and your letter and send via email to johnnypark (at)

Continue reading “Save North Korean Refugees Day 2022”

19th North Korea Freedom Week


Press Release

This year marks the 19th anniversary of the North Korea Freedom Week (NKFW), which was declared in April 2004 by the North Korea Freedom Coalition, a leading U.S. North Korea human rights group, and both national and international North Korean defector organizations.

The NKFW is a movement for North Korean defectors to topple Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship, which has inflicted intolerable suffering on the North Korean people, and to liberate them, who have been living as spiritual slaves of Kim Jong Un.  
The NKFW, which started with the slogan of “Free North Korea” in the open space of Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on April 28th, 2004, has been set for every last week of April as our week of action, but this year, due to COVID-19 and the South Korean presidential election, it is set from September 25th to October 1st.  

Below, you will find the NKFW schedule (chart). We ask for your interest and media coverage.  


2004년 4월 미국의 대표적 북한 인권단체인 ‘북한자유연합’과 국내외 탈북단체 탈북민단체들에 의해 선포된 ‘북한 자유 주간’이 올해로 19회 차를 맞고 있습니다. 

‘북한 자유 주간’은 북조선 인민들에게 말할 수 없는 고통을 들씌운 김정은 독재정권을 무너뜨리고, 김정은의 정신적 노예로 사는, 북조선 인민들을 해방하기 위한 탈북민들의 북한 자유화 운동입니다. 

2004년 4월 28일 미 상원의 북한인권법 통과를 촉구하며 워싱턴 의회 공터에서 외쳤던 ‘자유 북한’의 구호가 발단이 된 ‘북한 자유 주간’은 매해 4월 마지막 주를 행동 주간으로 정해왔지만, 올해는 코로나19와 한국의 대선 관계로 9월 25일부터 10월 1일까지로 정해졌습니다. 

아래에 이 일주일간의 일정(표)을 소개하면서, 관심과 취재 부탁드립니다. 

The 19th North Korea Freedom Week Schedule of Events

Saturday, September 24 

7 pm Organization Heads Meeting Before Dinner [Key Supporters from Korean, Japanese, and U.S. Delegations]

Host: Kim Seong-min, NKFW Preparatory Committee, Koreana Hotel Coffee Shop, 135, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul 

Sunday, September 25 

10 – 12 pm Special Service for the Successful NKFW

Host: Pastor Kang Chul-ho, Sae Teo Church 
Location: Sae Teo Church (5th Floor, 6-23, Mokdongnam-ro 4-gil, Yangcheon-gu, Seoul)

2 – 3 pm Flower Dedication Ceremony for Freedom Heroes

Host: Choi Jung-hoon, NK Liberation Front
Location: War Memorial of Korea (29, Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul) 

7 – 9 pm The 19th NKFW Music Concert

Host: Rev. Lawrence Lee, Suzanne Scholte, and Pastor Sung Sang-mo
Location: Hi-Seoul-Youth-Hostel (57, Yeongsin-ro, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul)

Monday, September 26 

2 – 3:30 pm The 19th NKFW Opening Ceremony

Host: Huh Kwnag-il, The Association of North Korea Human Rights Organizations 
Location: Foreign Reporter Club, Seoul Press Center 18th Floor (124, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul) 

4 – 6 pm Forcible Repatriation of North Korea Defector, “Special Press Conference on False Murder Confession Fact-Finding Committee”

Host: Kang Chul-hwan, North Korea Strategy Center 
Location: Foreign Reporter Club, Seoul Press Center 18th Floor (124, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul)

7 – 9 pm Seminar on the North Korea Salvation Unification Gospel

Host: Lee Yong-hee, Esther Prayer Movement 
Location: 5, Beodeunaru-ro 14 ga-gil, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul

Tuesday, September 27 

10 – 12 pm Press Conference on Requesting for the Prompt Establishment of North Korea Human Rights Foundation

Host: Kim Tae-hoon, Corp. North Korea Human Rights
Location: Press Conference Room, Seoul Press Center 19th Floor (124, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul)

 2 – 4 pm Denunciation of the North Korean Government’s Terror Threats against North Korean Defector Activists, “Listening to the Voices of North Korean Defector Organization Heads Calling for the South Korean Government’s Response”

Host: Choi Jung-hoon, NK Liberation Front 
Location: Conference Room (7), the National Assembly  (1, Uisadang-daero, Yeongdeunpo-gu, Seoul) 

Wednesday, September 28 

AM Yongsan Executive Office Visit (Expected) 

       Meeting with the Minister of Unification (Expected)

      Meeting with Amb. Lee Shin-ah (Expected) 

5 – 7 pm Forum for New Media Information Utilization for the Promotion of North Koreans’ Right to Information

Host: Kim Heung-kwang, NK Intellectual Association 
Location: KTX Conference Room, Seoul Metro Station 4th Floor (405, Hangang-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul) 

Thursday, September 29 

10 – 12 pm Accusation of Repatriation of Korean-Japanese to North Korea and Human Rights Violations

Host: Ahn Chan-il, International North Korea Research Center 
Location: Conference Room (2), the National Assembly (1, Uisadang-daero, Yeongdeunpo-gu, Seoul) 

1 – 3 pm Strategic Discussion on Hwang Jang-yop’s Observation on Liberal Democracy and the Democratization of North Korea

Host: Huh Kwang-il, CDNK
Location: Conference Room (6), the National Assembly (1, Uisadang-daero, Yeongdeunpo-gu, Seoul)   

4 – 7 pm Tasks and Roles of North Korean Defector College Students for the Liberation of North Korea

Host: Lim Chang-ho, NKHRD
Location: State Room, The Koreana Hotel 7th Floor (135, Sejong-daero, Jung-gun, Seoul)

Friday, September 30 

9 – 12 pm One Korea International Forum (Korean, Japanese, and English simultaneous translations will be provided) 

Host(s): Global Peace Foundation, NKFC, Action of Korea United, One Korea Foundation, Korea of All, and International Solidarity for North Korea’s Freedom of Religion and Faith
Location: Press Conference Room, Seoul Press Center 19th Floor (124, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul)

2 – 4 pm Protest against the CCP’s Forcible Repatriation of North Korean Refugees

Host: NKFC, The Association of North Korea Human Rights Organizations, and The National Association of North Korean Defectors 
Location: The PRC Embassy (Myeongdong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul) 

5 – 7 pm Evening Prayer Service for the Salvation of the People of North Korea

Host: Pastor Lee Phillip, Yeolbangsam Church 
Location: Yeolbangsam Church (3rd Floor, 28, Gocheok-ro, Guro-gu, Seoul) 

Saturday, October 1 

10 – 12 pm The 5th Memorial Ceremony for Freedom Fighters/Information Campaign of North Korean Defector Organizations (Talk Show) 

Host: Jang Se-yul, NKPLF
Location: Sae Teo Church (5th Floor, 6-23, Mokdongnam-ro 4-gil, Yangcheon-gu, Seoul)

5 – 7 pm Let’s Have the 20th NKFW in Pyongyang! (The Night for the NKFW Supporters) 

Host: Kim Heung-kwang, The NKFW Steering Committee
Location: Foreign Reporter Club, Seoul Press Center 18th Floor (124, Sejong-daero, Jung-gu, Seoul)   

South Korea’s Refugee Policy in the Yoon Administration: A New Openness to International Standards?

Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on “South Korea’s Refugee Policy and the Yoon Administration: A New Openness to International Standards?” 

Hosted by:

Christopher H. Smith
Member of Congress
Co-Chair, TLHRC

James P. McGovern
Member of Congress
Co-Chair, TLHRC


  • Jong-Chul Kim, Esq. Senior Researcher, Advocates for Public Interest Law
  • Ethan Hee-Seok Shin, Ph.D., Legal Analyst, Transitional Justice Working Group
  • Moon Jun Sohn, M.D., Ph.D., Director, We All Friends (NGO), Professor, Neurological Surgery, Ilsan Paik Hospital, Inje University, Korea
  • Suzanne Scholte, Ph.D., Seoul Peace Prize Laureate and Chair, North Korea Freedom Coalition
  • Kennji Kizuka, Associate Director, Research & Analysis, Refugee Protection, Human Rights First


Continue reading “South Korea’s Refugee Policy in the Yoon Administration: A New Openness to International Standards?”

June Action Items

For Residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia

NKFC members living in Virginia are sending a letter of thanks to Virginia Senator Tim Kaine for joining Senator Marco Rubio as an original co sponsor of the North Korea Human Rights Reauthorization Act. If you live in Virginia and would like to join, email me and we will send you the letter to review and sign at: 

HRNK and IBA Press Conference on Monday to Release Report Findings on Crimes Vs. Humanity in North Korea’s Detention Centers

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and the International Bar Association invite you to the public release of their Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korean Detention Centers.  The release will be held on Monday, June 27 from 9:30a.m. to 11:00 am EST at the National Press Club (529 14th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20045). Three renowned international jurists – who, together, have presided over the most consequential international criminal tribunals since the Nuremberg trials – will deliver remarks.  Announcement and Information here:

May Action Items

International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea’s FREEDOM Prayer Service: I am pleased to share the links to last month’s interactive prayer service for the International Day of Prayer and Fasting for North Korea’s Freedom.We received many positive response and hundreds of people participated from all over the world. You can imagine what that meant to the North Korean escapees! It was be an amazing time to lift this country and its people to the Lord for their freedom and human rights during this prayer service as we all prepared to fast and pray all over the world for North Korea’s freedom.  Here is the link to watch online in either English or Korean:

NKFC’s UN Panel Unshackle the Women of North Korea: Once again, the North Korea Freedom Coalition hosted a panel during the UN Commission on the Status of Women to specifically focus on the women of North Korea. You can hear from courageous North Korean women who shared their eyewitness testimonies about the human rights conditions North Korean women face in North Korea, China, as overseas workers, and the struggles the survivors face in South Korea especially separated mothers and children. Here is the link for watching online: