“Struggle for Survival” fundraising event in Toronto

Megaphone“Struggle for Survival” is an event supported by the Scadding Court Community Centre in Toronto, Canada, and the office of Toronto City Councillor Raymond Cho. Jihyun Kwon, one of the organizers, asked CanKor to help promote the event, whose purpose is to raise funds to assist North Korean refugees in Toronto. See details in the poster below.

The event is sponsored by “North Koreans in Canada,” a small non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to serving North Korean refugees (both status and non-status) living in Canada. According to this organization, there are currently about 2,000 North Koreans who have found refuge in Toronto, but still struggling to survive. Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Canadiana to North Korean Defectors

In the week of 20 February the Canadian Embassy in Seoul is launching a new program that will teach Canadian English and the Canadian way of life to North Korean defectors. At the core of the curriculum are Canadian values and concepts such as multiculturalism and parliamentary democracy. 

There are currently some 5,000 Canadian English teachers in South Korea. From among these, a select group of volunteers have been chosen to expose groups of defectors (most of whom already studying at universities in Seoul) to Western culture and global perspectives, at the same time reinforcing Canada’s longstanding commitment to human rights, and to peaceful reunification on the Korean peninsula.

Canadian Embassy in Seoul (photo by CanKor)

The project is organized in partnership with the Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, the winner of Canada’s inaugural Diefenbaker Human Rights Award in March 2011. The NKHR has identified Canadian teachers to assist with curriculum development and teach the initial course.

ROK government support has been received via a diplomatic note and in a meeting between Canadian Ambassador David Chatterson and Chun Yung-woo, Senior Secretary to the ROK President for Foreign Affairs and National Security.

The courses will be taught in the Embassy’s public area classroom. One wonders whether, along with learning about Canadian values, the students will gain a healthy appetite for establishing a new life for themselves in Canada–and with what enthusiasm Canadian authorities will welcome them as potential citizens.

For further details about this initiative, including objectives, activities and participants, please see: Inside Canada Defectors Program.

North Korean defectors resettle, raise awareness in Canada

By Kyle Burton, Yonhap News Agency,  29 January 2012

Hundreds of years after European migrants traveled to North America seeking refuge and opportunity, groups of North Korean defectors have begun to resettle in Canada, with many calling the city of Toronto their new home.

Heo Tae-seop, a North Korean defector who settled in Toronto last year. (Courtesy of Kyle Burton)

Canada accepted 83 North Korean refugees in 2011, double the number of the previous year.

Heo Tae-seop is a North Korean defector who has been living in Toronto since May. For people like Heo, the consequences of attempting an escape can be severe. Those caught are repatriated and reportedly receive severe punishment. Some lucky individuals manage to sneak through the border and into China, while others navigate the harsh ocean waters to South Korea. Then, there are those who make the journey to North America where an entirely new life awaits.

“People who have just defected from North Korea do not know about democracy because they have been closed off from the world for so long,” said Heo. “For example, I am 48 years old, but in Canada I feel like I am a 1-year-old baby because I don’t know anything about Toronto or this country.” Read the rest of this entry »

38 North: Admitting North Korean Refugees to the United States by Roberta Cohen

[From time to time CanKor will alert our readers to papers published by our partner-site 38North. The following article is authored by Roberta Cohen, a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution specializing in human rights and humanitarian issues; a Senior Associate at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University; and Co-Chair of the the Board of Directors of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK).. Please follow our links to this article on the 38North site. --CanKor.]

Admitting North Korean Refugees to the United States: Obstacles and Opportunities By Roberta Cohen

“The numbers are too small,” a Korean American told me, referring to the fact that the United States has admitted only 122 North Korean refugees to this country since the adoption of the North Korea Human Rights Act (NKHRA) in 2004, and that only an estimated 25 have received political asylum.[i] His remark reflected the view of Korean Americans who would like to see more North Koreans find refuge in the United States after the brutality, oppression, and economic hardship to which they have been subjected.

North Korea is one of the few countries in the world where permission to leave is highly restricted, making it incredibly risky for its citizens to seek refuge abroad. Despite this, tens of thousands have managed to cross into China where they are in hiding, more than 22,000 have made their way to South Korea, and at least 2,000 have reached countries in Europe and Asia.[ii] Why haven’t more gained entry to the United States?

In adopting the NKHRA, members of Congress recognized that despite the difficulty of affecting change inside North Korea, something should be done to help those who manage to escape. The act sought to facilitate the entry of “acutely vulnerable” North Koreans to the United States, calling for “a credible number” to come in as refugees, while recognizing South Korea’s “principal responsibility” for their resettlement.[iii]

Nonetheless, major obstacles continue to block their admission to the United States. To be sure, there has been progress since the adoption of the NKHRA—more than 20 North Koreans began to be admitted as refugees each year. Yet it is also true that the U.S. has the largest refugee resettlement program in the world and that of 73,293 refugees brought into the country in 2010, only 25 came from North Korea, whereas 18,016 came from Iraq, 16,693 from Burma, 12,363 from Bhutan, followed by Somalia (4,884), Cuba (4,818), Iran (3,543), Democratic Republic of Congo (3,174), Eritrea (2,570), Vietnam (873) and Ethiopia (668).[iv] …Read More

Other articles by Roberta Cohen:

Meeting refugees from North Korea by Mary Robinson

[After a 48-hour visit to the DPRK and ROK in late April, four members of the Elders urged immediate delivery of humanitarian assistance to DPRK and an early resumption of dialogue on all outstanding issues. Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), has spent most of her life as a human rights advocate. Currently based in Dublin, Mary Robinson founded Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and, more recently, the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice. She traveled to DPRK and ROK together with fellow Elders Gro Brundtland, Jimmy Carter and Martti Ahtisaari. --CanKor.]

Mary Robinson

In Seoul today I have just had a very moving meeting with a group of courageous young people – mainly young women – who are originally from North Korea. As they told me how they came to be living in South Korea, I also got a further glimpse into the true hardship of life in the DPRK.

Of course I have just been in North Korea – but it was impossible to have truly frank conversations with ordinary people while we were there – and we knew that what we saw would only touch the surface of the suffering that we had been briefed about.

The young people I met at the Yeomyung School in Seoul had almost all been separated for long periods from their parents, most of whom left North Korea out of desperation. A lack of food was mentioned by almost all as the reason for leaving. Read the rest of this entry »

CHOSUN ILBO on North Korean food aid

 [Chris Nelson pulled this excerpt from the Chosun Ilbo on April 6 for consideration.]

Some 78.2 percent of North Korean defectors never received any foreign grain aid when they lived in the North, a survey revealed Tuesday. The survey of 500 defectors by the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights conducted on March 25-31 found that 391 or 78.2 percent never received food aid from South Korea or the international community. Of 106 respondents who did receive such aid, 29 said they returned whole or part of the aid. This suggests the North Korean regime tried to deceive the international community by taking back already distributed aid as soon as international monitors’ backs were turned. Read the rest of this entry »

Defector-Refugee dreams of rebuilding homeland through business

North Korean defector-refugees are far more likely to stay unemployed or poor once settled in the South. Han Pil-soo, who arrived in Seoul in 2002 has defied these odds, building a sizable trading company that posted 25.9 billion won in sales in 2009 alone. Han runs Livinghom — an online shopping mall that sells a gamut of daily necessaries to a growing number of Chinese consumers who prefer South Korean products to local ones.

Han’s ultimate ambition is to hire “every North Korean defector in South Korea who has a family to feed”. His company, Hansung Trading Co. based in Seoul, already employs 37 former compatriots — over 80 percent of its entire personnel. Read the rest of this entry »

The Government of Canada Speaks (Just A Little, For Now)

Han Voice Chair Randall Baran-Chong and MP Barry Devolin

Han Voice Chair Randall Baran-Chong and MP Barry Devolin

Two inter-related events quietly happened this past week.

The first event took place in Ottawa last Thursday, as the inaugural John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award was awarded to the Citizens Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (or “NKHR”). This achievement, the brainchild of an up-and-coming DFAIT staffer, was given by none other than Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon.

The second event took place in Toronto last Saturday. An open forum was co-hosted by HanVoice, the Citizens Alliance, as well as the Toronto Korean consulate at the University of Toronto. As part of the event, several speakers, including Benjamin Yoon (chairman of NKHR), the South Korean consul general, and Member of Parliament Barry Devolin gave some opening remarks. These opening addresses were followed by a short panel discussion by Chris Kim and Sydney Choi of HanVoice, Pam Shime from the Global Advocacy & Leadership Institute, Suk Woo Kim from NKHR, and Ashley Eom from NKHR. The panelists spoke about wide-and-varied topics, including possible private sponsorship and education programs for North Korean refugees, the potential for the issue of children (and especially stateless children) as a possible wedge issue regarding human rights advocacy, food aid, and the rampant sexual trafficking of female North Korean refugees in China. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian MP Motions on North Korean refugees

Anybody suffering from insomnia might wish to consult the Canadian Government website and read “Status of House Business” or the slightly more interesting “Order Paper and Notice Paper”. The former, whose last update was on Friday 8 October 2010, is a listing not only of parliamentary bills currently before Parliament, but also of Private Members’ Motions, which concern “general subject matters” on every conceivable topic.

All I really wanted was to see what, if anything, members had proposed in relation to the DPRK. I found that the situation of North Korean refugees seems to be a multi-party concern. Separate motions have been proposed by Barry Devolin (Conservative), Judy Sgro (Liberal) and Peter Julian (NDP). As I understand it, the order in which these motions come before Parliament is by a sort of lottery.

As you will see by the listing below, Ms Sgro has upped her chances in this lottery by proposing three motions on Korea. One of them seems a little dated, offering sympathy to the families of the sailors killed on the Cheonan, and pledging support for South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s response to “the act of aggression by North Korea”. The two other motions are identical, but assigned different numbers. They call for increased food aid to be sent to North Korea for starving families and for Canada to work with UNHCR to improve the lives of North Korean refugees, while applying pressure on China to stop repatriating them and to work with the International Community “to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.”

Mr. Julian has a more modest approach, simply asking Canada, together with the international community, to pressure China “to authorize the safe passage of North Korean refugees to South Korea.”

Mr. Devolin, the only MP to use the official — and correct — designation “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)” and — also correctly and professionally — asks Canada to “express concern” about the situation of North Korean refugees who find themselves in China, and to “encourage” (not “pressure”) China to work with the international community and the UNHCR “to find a solution that respects China’s right to defend its borders and security while upholding the rights of DPRK citizens, as articulated by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.”

If these motions were to be dealt with as a group (they won’t be) and if I were a member of parliament (I’m not), my vote would certainly go with Mr. Devolin’s deft and diplomatic formulation.

To browse through the texts of these and hundreds of other motions, check out Private Members� Business, Tuesday, October 5, 2010 (No. 77).

Here are the full texts of the relevant motions in both official languages:

M-369 - March 3, 2010 – Mr. Devolin (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) express its concern over the situation of citizens of the Democratic People�s Republic of Korea (DPRK) who have fled to China and who fear imprisonment, torture and potential execution if forcibly returned to their country; and (b) encourage the government of China to work with the international community, including Canada and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to find a solution that respects China�s right to defend its borders and security while upholding the rights of DPRK citizens, as articulated by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

M-375 - March 3, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should use all available means to end the human suffering in North Korea, including, but not limited to, increasing food aid to feed countless starving families, to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to improve the quality of life of refugees, putting pressure on China to accept and not repatriate North Korean refugees and working with the International Community to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.

M-383 - March 3, 2010 – Mr. Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work with the international community to put pressure on the Government of the People�s Republic of China to authorize the safe passage of North Korean refugees to South Korea.

M-539 - May 27, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That the House extend its profound sympathies to the people of South Korea and especially to the families of the 46 South Korean sailors killed during the March 26, 2010, sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan and that the House, on behalf of the people of Canada, express an unwavering commitment to stand with the people of South Korea and to support President Lee Myung-bak in his decision to react following the act of aggression by North Korea on March 26, 2010.

M-540 - May 27, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should use all available means to end the human suffering in North Korea, including, but not limited to, increasing food aid to feed starving families, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to improve the quality of life of refugees, putting pressure on China to accept and not repatriate North Korean refugees and working with the international community to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.

%d bloggers like this: