North Koreans in Toronto: The NGO Predicament

It is no secret for anyone living in Toronto that persons of North Korean descent are living in Canada, and that most of them end up settling in Toronto. Also, for anyone who has devoted any effort to North Korean issues in Toronto, it is obvious after only a bit of time that most, if not all of them, have spent some considerable time in South Korea. You don’t have to notice that the first thing that many North Koreans do is obtain a smartphone, or that they stop needing your assistance after two weeks in Canada, or that the clothing they choose to wear is remarkably South Korean. Some will simply openly tell you that they came from South Korea and chose to live in Toronto.

Unfortunately, that is not the story they tell the Canadian immigration authorities. Doing so would spell doom to a refugee claim, which all North Koreans lodge upon entering the country. Rather, the typical North Korean refugee claim starts in North Korea and goes straight through China to Canada, omitting the South Korean leg of the journey. This is for obvious reason. Being honest and upfront about coming through a country that welcomes North Korean refugees with lavish subsidies would lead to an outright dismissal of their refugee claim.

There is a further wrinkle now that a lie has been told: the laws surrounding misrepresentation. If found to have misrepresented themselves to the government under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the claimant would then find themselves unable to enter Canada for two years, with legislation now in the House of Commons that would expand that period to five.

Although I have written in the past how the Canadian government should respond to this issue, what has been neglected is how civil society should cope with this recent phenomenon. How should non-governmental organizations that deal with North Korea specifically respond to the North Koreans arriving on our shores? Read the rest of this entry »

“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 »

North Korean refugees in Toronto carry burden of fear (Toronto Star)

by Mary Ormsby and Leslie Scrivener, Toronto Star, 30 April 2012

will not have their faces photographed. They will not disclose their names. (Aaron Harris/Toronto Star)

Three unidentified North Korean immigrants in a Toronto church (Photo by Aaron Harris, Toronto Star)

The three North Korean women will not have their faces photographed. They will not disclose their names.

But certain things they will reveal. How they ground tree bark and cooked it into a thin gruel for food. How they were sold to brokers to work as maids or “unofficial wives” in China. How starving neighbours — children as well as adults — were executed for stealing even a morsel of meat.

“Our lives meant nothing,” one of them says. “We were like flies.”

The fear that propelled the women to flee the brutality of their homeland clings to them as refugees in Toronto, terrified their freedom in Canada will mean death to family and friends in North Korea, which calls itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

That may explain why some, like 13-year-old Sol Han, reported missing from a local shelter this week, melt away into the broader GTA population. Maybe never to be heard from again. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Public Event in Toronto: North Korea — New Leadership, New Hope?

HanVoice is very excited to announce that it will be hosting a Panel Discussion focusing on the legacy of Kim Jong-Il and the future of North Korea post-Kim Jong Il.

The event will provide unique perspectives from local MP Barry Devolin; HanVoice’s Executive Director, Randall Baran-Chong; CanKor columnist, Jack Kim; a member of the North Korean refugee community; and a representative from Canada’s academic community. The discussion aims to act as a platform from which the creation of new dialogue, initiatives and ideas can be shared and exchanged by viewpoints from key stakeholders, including policymakers, members of the press, academics, members of the human rights community, and the public. Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: