By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife with reports from the region
SEOUL/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)-- A leading coalition of advocacy and aid groups were preparing Sunday, September 9, to rescue more North Korean refugees while North Korea's regime celebrated its most powerful nuclear test yet.
The North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC) told BosNewsLife that it is organizing the Worldwide Save North Korean Refugees Day on Friday, September 22 as the situation of those fleeing the communist nation "is worse than ever before."
Among those leaving North Korea are also Christians, BosNewsLife learned. "We are recruiting now for City Coordinators and Solidarity City Coordinators to plan action on behalf of the North Korean refugees on that date," the NKFC said.
Last year, 24 cities took part in Save North Korean Refugees Day "from Pretoria, South Africa to San Francisco, California, from Seoul, South Korea, to Paris, France," the coalition added.
The NKFC's statement came while North Korea's state-run news media reported Sunday, September 9, that North Korea's autocratic leader, Kim Jong-un, celebrated the government’s 69th anniversary this weekend by bringing his nuclear scientists and engineers to Pyongyang, the capital, and holding a banquet.
On their way from the country’s underground nuclear test site in northeast North Korea to the capital Pyongyang, the technicians had been cheered by people who poured out to see them passing by, the country’s official Korean Central News Agency reported.
The gala and earlier hero’s welcome, including a massive outdoor rally and firecrackers, underscored concerns that escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea over the recent nuclear tests could lead to an armed conflict, impacting impoverish citizens and refugees.
"An estimated 3 million North Koreans have perished under North Korea's brutal dictatorial regime since the mid-1990s. Families continue to starve to death as the North Korean government withholds food rations to entire regions of the nation," the NKFC explained.
It welcomed the recent release in the United States of the dissident book from North Korea "The Accusation," the only known book written by someone still living in North Korea. The author's pseudonym is Bandi, meaning Firefly, "as he is the bright light shining out of the darkness" of North Korea.
"The government arbitrarily detains, tortures, and executes its citizens, including children, in an extensive network of prison and labor camps," the Coalition said. At least hundreds of thousands of Christians are believed to be among those being detained, according to several rights activists.
"Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled to China to survive. However, they live in fear of forced repatriation, imprisonment, and possible execution after repatriation. Children whose parents have died or been separated from them wander the streets in search of food and protection," the NKFC added. "We must act now to bring relief." Those interested were encouraged to contact organizers via the website of the affiliated Defense Forum Foundation ( http://defenseforumfoundation.org/defense-forum-foundation.html).
The NKFC claims to have over 70 public member organizations representing millions of American, South and North Korean, and Japanese citizens as well as other nations, along with many individual members.
It said that the City Coordinators now being recruited should each deliver a petition Friday, September 22, to the Chinese embassy or consulate urging China to "stop repatriating North Korean refugees" and may organize any additional activities such as protests. "For example, here in Washington DC we also hold a candlelight vigil and a demonstration. It is totally up to the City Coordinator," the U.S.-based Coalition added.
Solidarity City Coordinators are in areas with no Chinese consulate but wish to take action for North Korean refugees. They could "host a film screening, a prayer vigil, or any event to raise awareness about this issue and raise funds for organizations that rescue North Korean refugees," the NKFC explained.
The NKFC said urgent action is necessary amid reports of suicides among refugees. "Kim will do everything in his power to prevent their escape and China's communist government will comply with his wishes despite China's international treaty obligations. Just recently, a family of five committed suicide rather than face repatriation to North Korea," added the NKFC which has close contacts with refugees.
Among those who died were reportedly a senior member of the North Korea's Worker's Party with his wife, son and two daughters. They apparently begged Chinese security forces not to force them back to North Korea, but instead, Beijing planned to escort them
with heavily armed security to the northeastern province of Liaoning which borders North Korea.
"Fearing certain torture and imprisonment and possible execution, the family committed suicide by taking poison," the NKFC said.
NKFC President Suzanne Scholte complained that defectors, who, like "all North Koreans were manipulated to hate Americans as 'Yankee Imperialist Wolves,'” were not able to meet with President Donald Trump or his team. “If Donald Trump had met with these people, it would have sent a powerful signal to people in the regime that Donald Trump cared about the North Korean people,” at a time of escalating tensions over nuclear testing, Scholte stressed.
Scholte said the Trump administration might worry about provoking China as it counts on its help to control North Korea.
She added that defectors believe that such reliance is fraught with peril as communist China "can not be trusted" and is blocking progress in the United Nations of condemning or impeding North Korea.
Scholte ran, unsuccessfully, for the U.S. Congress in Virginia’s 11th Congressional District in 2014, getting 40 percent of the vote against the Democrat incumbent. She received several awards for her humanitarian work, including the highest award given to a non-Korean in 2013 by the Republic of Korea, the Sungnye Diplomatic Service Award.
She is also involved in supporting Free North Korea Radio, an award winning Seoul based radio station broadcasting news and information into North Korea.