|Whenever North Korea is mentioned, what comes to your mind? For me, I picture nuclear bombs, massacres, refugees, communism and propaganda. These images all portray a grim scene. It makes me realise how fortunate I am to be living in Australia, a country that is void of these happenings. A friend of mine, who is a human rights activist based in South Korea, has opened my eyes to the harsh realities North Koreans experience in their country and the work of the organisation Justice For North Korea (JFNK).|
Vision and aims of the organisation
Justice For North Korea (JFNK) was established on May 23, 2007. It was founded by international activist Peter Jung and is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that actively opposes the ongoing human rights violations committed against North Koreans. JFNK is an official NGO registered with the Ministry of Unification. The organisation spreads global awareness and provides financial support to victims of human rights abuse. JFNK strives to relieve the suffering of those living in North Korea and defectors who have managed to escape. It advocates for the human rights of North Koreans who have gone through persecution and whose families have been killed by the North Korean government through demonstrations, reports, events and social media.
Presently, JFNK has 2 full-time and 5 part-time workers. It has about 200 local members and approximately 300 international members. Over 600 people have joined the Facebook campaign as well. The organisation aims to raise awareness of the issues happening in North Korea and provide humanitarian aid to the refugees of that country through influential international organisations. Through JFNK, North Korean refugees gain recognition as international refugees and are able to avoid being deported to North Korea. The vision is to mobilize and unite both local and international organisations with the help of humanitarian workers to achieve unification of the Korean Peninsula.
Protests and campaigns
From the day the organisation was founded, there has been a one-person protest at the Chinese Consulate based in Seoul everyday to protest against the Chinese government’s treatment of North Korean defectors. It is known as the ‘444 days campaign’.
The campaign was carried out for 444days until Aug 8, 2008. Many local volunteer members and humanitarian workers for North Korea joined in the daily campaign at Chinese Consulate. Overseas volunteers helped in the Insadong protests on Saturdays to improve the plight of North Korean people. As a result, the government gave more attention to the issues affecting North Korea. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has also been attempting to devise new plans to protect North Korean refugees.
Testimonial from founder Peter Jung
“When I am awake, I always spend my time thinking about freedom and human rights for North Korean people. I work harder than anybody else working over 10 hours in my office. However, if I compare myself with North Korean people, I am a happy person enjoying my freedom. Therefore, I think I should not forget about the human rights of those under oppression and persecution as long as I breathe. If there are 200, 000 people who are still suffering in political prison camps in North Korea, I should not stay silent.
For I, myself, experienced being in Chinese prison one time and in another South East Asian country. I have given more serious thought to the human rights of imprisoned people who have been deprived of their freedom. I am determined to do better for human rights activities for North Korean people. I was very impressed when North Korean defectors in South Korea found the courage to join me in the humanitarian work when I stood up and fought for North Korean refugees. It was worthwhile to work with them for what I could not do alone. I think it is important to prepare for unification with North Korean people.”
Testimonial from a human rights activist, Ji-hye Park
“We have developed secret routes for North Korean refugees to escape to South East Asian countries such as Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Yet, it is a dangerous mission as lives could be at risk. NK defectors feel extremely insecure and fearful. Activists who lead and carry out such missions must be well prepared and equipped. Many activists (or humanitarian workers) have worked together on rescue missions and been involved together in raising global awareness. Sometimes, we need to carry out our missions secretly and other times through the media and press. The humanitarian workers are focused on saving people’s lives by investing our time and risking our lives.
North Korean human rights issues have been spread worldwide. Yet, not many people are aware of the issue. Humanitarian workers including myself have to always study and develop ways to raise more awareness. I have found happiness in advocating for human rights for North Koreans. After working for several years as a humanitarian worker, I have become more interested in ‘Human Rights’. My view towards the society and nation has changed. I’ve learnt to live for something greater than myself. My biggest joy is seeing North Korean refugees rid themselves of Communist ideology and learn of their value as human beings through information from the world at large.”
To find out more visit:
444 days campaign – http://www.444days.org/
Justice for North Korea – www.justice4nk.org