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On 'our suggestions for the North Korean Refugees' :

It is reported in an article of 'the Future Korea Journal' (Feb, 5th, 2005) that Vivit Muntarbhom, Special Reppoteur for North Korean Human Right of UNCHR, the UN Commission on Human Right, referred to North Korean 'defectors' as 'refugees' for the first time in the official document dating Jan 27th. It is estimated that this small but significant change resulted partly from the Movement of Collecting Signatures which CNKR, the Commission to Help North Korean Refugees, had started six years before. CNKR collected eleven million and eight hundred thousand people's signatures and submitted them to UN in 2001. KPA, Korean Philosophy Association, involved in the movement on the basis of the association and collected one thousand and ninety five philosophers' signatures and submitted them to CNKR and the authorities concerned. I, as the then president of KPA, also involved in the movement. So I still keep plenty of materials I'd like to show to those who are concerned about N.K refugees. I am going to put them on the materials list. Hopefully it will help more people understand why N.K refugees need our aid now.

Our Suggestions for the North Korean Refugees

We, Korean philosophers in the world, had the 1999 International Congress of Korean Philosophers, held at Korea University in Seoul, August 17-19. During the Congress, of which the main theme was "Korean People and the New Millenium", we discussed the historic problems with which the Koreans have been confronted up to the present. In particular, we paid our special attention to exploring philosophical and theoretical foundations for the reunification of the Korean Peninsular, and tried to find the best way of resuming the common ethnic and political culture which could facilitate the mutual understanding between South and North Korea. Along with the philosophical and theoretical discussion, we had to take notice of the miseries of the North Korean refugees, who are estimated to be over three hundred thousand. The recent years' famine sweeping across North Korea forced them to escape from their country to the bordering nations, especially to China, in order to beg for food. All of us were shocked at the miserable sight of their starvations and sufferings. The least of their basic human rights is now being denied and all kinds of inhumane treatments inflicted upon them are beyond description. Moreover, we heard from various sources that especially women and children’s sufferings were more serious. We were, therefore, compelled to agree that the most urgent task facing the Koreans at this moment must be to alleviate the sufferings of North Korean refugees and to correct the infringement on their basic human rights. This agreement is based upon our belief in the humanitarian fraternity for securing the basic human rights, as well as upon our traditions of exercising communal support and ethnic compatriotism for those in need, irrespective of nationality, race or ideology. We think that how to solve the problems of North Korean refugees is the touchstone of moral and practical capacities of Korean people who are seeking for the reconciliation and reunification between South and North Korea. We, therefore, claim that the South Korean people, their NGOs, and the Korean Government should take the first step for finding the solution to the North Korean refugees' problems. Especially the Korean Government should take the initiative to solve their problems in cooperation with the North Korean Government, the Chinese Government, and the international societies and institutions. In making our suggestions for the North Korean refugees, we, Korean philosophers all over the world, note that in this year of 1999 we are temporally situated between the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 10, 1948) and the coming New Millenium. At this juncture, all human beings are expected to make firm resolutions to solve the past problems of 20th century and march towards the bright future of mankind on this planet. We have no doubt that all human beings across the world are practically entitled to the fundamental human rights prescribed in the Declaration. Especially we hope that both the Article 14 of the Declaration, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” and the Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ( December 16, 1966), “The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures”, will be properly applied to the North Korean refugees. According to Preamble of 1951 Convention Relating To the Status of Refugees (July 28, 1951), “The High Contracting Parties · · · [are] expressing the wish that all States, recognizing the social and humanitarian nature of the problem of refugees, will do everything within their power to prevent this problem from becoming a cause of tension between States”. We, Korean philosophers with various and different nationalities, fully acknowledge that the problems of North Korean refugees and our petition for their being given the status of refugees should not be used for laying the blame on, or giving a burden of responsibility to certain States, e.g., the North Korean Government or the Chinese Government. We, however, strongly believe that, as the secretary-general of UN made it clear recently, individual sovereignty as the fundamental freedom and inherent dignity and equal rights of the human person is more important than national sovereignty. On the occasion of the 1st Internet Conference of Korean Philosophers held in connection with the 1999 Congress of Korean Philosophers (from October 3 to December 15, 1999, on the website of "http://www.kpal999.org"), we, Korean philosophers in the world, are making an announcement of “Our Suggestions for the North Korean refugees.” From the beginning of the Congress, we have also been promoting the movement of "One Thousand Korean Philosophers’ Signatures", which, we hope, will relay to a worldwide signature-collecting campaign of "Ten Million People's Concern About the North Korean Refugees". We are reconfirming earnestly the two clauses for which we have signed. The first is that “North Korean refugees are not merely borderline transgressors, but literal refugees seeking asylum and protection to be free from hunger, and that they should be given the status of refugees according to the pertinent international treaties and laws”. And the second is that “the enforced repatriation of North Korean refugees from neighboring countries should be stopped immediately and that they should be protected in a proper asylum.” On December 10, 1999, the commemoration day of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we will send our undersigned collective petition for being given them the status of refugees and being treated as such to the Office of The UN High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR). And also we will send our petition for the official and periodic report on the rights of North Korean refugees to the Office of The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights(UNHCHR), and UN Human Rights Committee(HRC). Through Internet, we will wire “Our Suggestions for the North Korean Refugees” to all the pertinent international institutions and NGOs. We hope that the 1st Internet Conference of Korean Philosophers will be a great momentum to awaken our moral sense of responsibility for the North Korean refugees among the Korean people as well as among the peoples of the world. We observe that North Korean refugees are not merely displaced persons, but also international refugees just trying to survive famine. They are not merely undocumented economic migrants, even if not 'political' refugees in the strict sense. We should realize that their hunger and the consequent refuge have resulted mainly from the inevitable discrimination in food rationing according to social hierarchy and political loyalty in their country. When expelled from the country of refuge to their original country, they are reported to be persecuted severely. So they are now obsessed with the so-called "well-founded fear of being persecuted on the occasion of repatriation". For these reasons, the status of mandate refugees guaranteed by UNHCR should apply to them. Here we want to note the Article 1 of 1951 Convention Relating To the Status of Refugees (July 28, 1951), “the term ‘refugee’ shall apply to any person who · · · owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who · · · is unwilling to return to it.” Thus, we cannot but claim that the search, arrest, and enforced return of North Korean refugees made in the country of refuge, i.e., in China, should be immediately prohibited. The Korean Government ought to make its utmost diplomatic effort and provide economic support for the relief of North Korean refugees in cooperation with the North Korean Government and the Chinese Government. The Korean Government should understand that launching the relief work for them at this critical moment will reduce the cost of the reunification of Korea at the end. And also the Korean Government must permit various non-governmental channels of the relief work for the refugees so that South Korean people, religious societies, and civil organizations can help them at their own discretion. South Korean people should engage in a fund-raising campaign for them. The National Assembly of Korea should enact the necessary laws for the support and relief of the refugees and their eventual internment into South Korea. The North Korean Government must stop the augment of the military forces and the discriminative food rationing system according to ideological loyalty and political hierarchy. Futhermore, the North Korean Government should take actions to dispel international suspicions about surreptitious military use of international food aids for civilians, and try to recover its international creditability. In sum, we, Korean Philosophers across the world taking part in the 1st Internet Conference of Korean Philosophers, have determined to make the following suggestions for North Korean refugees, with the over one thousand Korean philosophers' signatures. 1. The United Nations and especially the Office of The UN High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR) should investigate the situations of the North Korean refugees in neighboring country, China, and give them the status of mandate refugees according to The 1967 Protocol Relating To The Status of Refugees. 2. The People’s Republic of China Government should permit and facilitate the investigation activities of UN and UNHCR, and set up refugee camps for the North Korean refugees in proper places. The arrest, expulsion, and enforced repatriation of North Korean refugees in the Chinese territory should be stopped immediately. 3. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Government should not give any penalty to the refugees who voluntarily return, and who are involuntarily returned from the country of refuge. 4. The Republic of Korea Government should make the request for the relief of North Korean refugees to UN, and show the willingness to intern them into her own territory. The Korean Government should recognize that the state making the request for the relief is in charge of all expenses incurred as a result of the internment of the North Korean refugees into China or South Korea. Thus the Korean Government should establish the compilation of the budget for the refugees. 5. Because this tragic situation have arisen from North Korea’s food shortage, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Government, UN, and the Republic of Korea Government should take, individually and through international cooperation, the measures to improve methods of production, conservation, and distribution of food in the North Korean territory. December 8th, 1999 Cho-Sik Lee President of KPA, the Korean Philosophical Association Professor of Philosophy at Korea University in Seoul, Korea On behalf of the Korean Philosophers across the world participating in the 1st Internet Conference of Korean Philosophers .