Stand at the Forefront of Justice with the Passion and Sense of Commission to the Issue of Human Rights

Do Hee-youn, Representative of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees

Please approve the asylum applications of those Chinese who are exiled to South Korea for religious persecution and suppression!”

Hwang Jae-ki, reporter, August 10th, 2017

Human rights of refugees

Human rights are fundamental rights that any person has, and are endowed rights from birth, but cannot be revoked by anyone else. That is a natural human right. However, in today’s society, there are cases of being treated unfairly or discriminated for the distinction of color, sex, physical characteristics, religion, etc.

Human rights issues become topical, which arise from racial discrimination, disability discrimination, discrimination against women, prejudice and discrimination against North Korean defectors, and religious persecution. To safeguard the human rights of these people, institutions and laws shall be established and improved to protect the human rights of the vulnerable social groups. There is also a movement that advocates respect for human rights globally. In the course of two world wars, the consciousness of ​​protecting human rights has spread worldwide as millions of people have been sacrificed. After World War II, the United Nations, in 1948, declared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to adopt human rights as a universal right for humanity to pursue, and emphasize that in order to pursue worldwide freedom and equality and maintain justice, human dignity must be the basis of human life.

Do Hee-youn, the representative of the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, is a human rights activist in the Republic of Korea. Not only to the human rights of North Korean defectors but for all the human rights issues, he will take a lead in justice with a passion and a sense of duty to give no thought of his own safety. We met Do Hee – yoon, who valued the human rights.

Q. What kind of organization is the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees?

A. We, the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, as “Abductee” in the name, is literally helping victims of kidnapping abducted by North Korea to return to our country as soon as possible, and supporting those prisoners of war of South Korean People’s Army captured during the Korean War. North Korean Refugees in the name are literally people who are suffering from escaping from China or abroad through difficulties. This league was established in 2000 right for these groups of people and has been in existence for about 20 years.

Q. What kind of activities do you have about human rights?

A. We have a lot of activities of human rights, both domestic and international. We are actively engaged in international solidarity activities to inform the international community about the difficulties of North Korean refugees and to carry out rescue operations to bring North Korean refugees directly to our country. But honestly, there are a lot of people in our country who do not even know about this situation, so we also do a good job of introducing the contents about North Korean human rights and North Korean refugees to everyone, and educating the adolescent about unity of the North and South Korea so that they have good knowledge of this aspect.

Q. You are well known as a North Korean human rights activist. What are human rights?

A: Many people ask this question. Human rights are literally the rights everyone as a human being can enjoy and must enjoy. It has no relationship with faith or religion, but is a universal value of the whole humanity. So wherever human rights are concerned, our organization shall exist and work on this issue.

Q. It is heard that the human rights problems are also serious in other countries besides North Korea. Do you know about that?

A. Yes, they are. Not to mention North Korea, the human rights problems are more prominent in the Communist countries, mostly in Asia, such as China, Cambodia and Vietnam. Other countries have been proceeding to democratization to some extent, but only North Korea and China have nothing to change. In addition to North Korea, there is also the Chinese Communist Party. I think that they are absolutely irreconcilable with human rights.

Q. I heard that there is a great deal of oppression of religion in North Korea. Do you know the facts of the persecution of North Korean Christians?

A. It has been verified at various levels and now we are still making efforts on work of exposing those contents to the international community. In fact, North Korea itself is a religious group, a pseudo religious group. The Juche is proud that they have 20 million believers, but anyway, North Korea does not accept any other religions except Juche idea. In particular, it regards Christianity as a religion thoroughly against its system, so it does not allow even a small seed of Christianity to take root there. This is North Korea. Under such circumstances, it is very difficult to find any underground churches or believers.

Q. Have you ever helped such people?

A. From the perspective of those who ask for rescue or hope to change their own hometown of North Korea, most people retain some kind of faith through some traditions that have been handed down. Among the traditional beliefs, Christianity is deeply rooted in the foundation. In particular, Pyongyang was the place where great seeds of faith have been disseminated since the early 19th century and was even called “the eastern Jerusalem”. But just when these seeds were about to bloom, they were strangled by the invasion of communism. Some lost their life tragically for defending their faith. Some got to know these facts through their ancestors and surrounding people and then came to ask us. We, the Citizens’ Coalition for the Human Rights of Abductees and North Korean Refugees, have taken these people to many countries and participated in various activities such as hearings about religious oppression and freedom of faith in North Korea.

Q. Many missionaries who have ever entered China said that they suffered repression in China. What do you know or what do you think about the situation of Chinese religious repression?

A. China is also a communist country. Outwardly it appears that the freedom of religious belief is granted by socialist law system, but in fact, they strictly limit missionary and evangelization. I have ever been to the Tumen River, and across the river, it is North Korea. There is an official church and an unofficial church there. I have come into contact with both of these two churches. The official church is simply for ornament. Those missionary and evangelical work are just shown to overseas human rights organizations and religious organizations, pretending to show that China has religious freedom. Another church is unofficial. We steered clear of the informer of public security and had a glimpse of it. It is a church that gathered secretly away from the eyes of Chinese public security. In any case, all the people who use the “pastor”, “missionary” or other religious terms in China will all be eavesdropped or followed. I’ve actually experienced that and have been followed many times. So China is a country that severely restrict religious freedom. I will talk about that in detail in the future, but I think that China is a country that is thoroughly repressing its faith.

Q. The international human rights groups, the Freedom House and human rights activists believe that the Zhaoyuan McDonald’s Murder case that happened in China in 2014 is a incident that the CCP made to intentionally shift the blame on religion in order to strengthen the oppression of religion. What do you think about this case?

A. I absolutely agree with Freedom House. The Communist Party of China can make such a thing more than enough. The Chinese Communist Party is most concerned about Falun Gong and various autonomous and independent groups. We can often see some reports: There are some cases of suicide, self-immolation, or terrorist attacks and so on happened in Xinjiang Uygur region, Tibet and some other places in China. I think that most of these are promoted or manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party. Although Xinjiang Uygur and other places do have terrorist attacks, but in the end, it is the Communist Party of China that provoked them and ultimately induced the occurrences of these cases. They fabricated such atmosphere with this trick. This is how they frame Falun Gong and other religious organizations as they are against the Communist party and even more, are anti-human and anti-moral organizations against humanity. The Communist Party of China is more than sufficient to do so.

Q. Since the Zhaoyuan McDonald incident, the persecution and oppression of this nascent religion, the Church of Almighty God, have led to many believers being arrested. Many Chinese Christians are forced into exile overseas. Do you know the Church of Almighty God?

A. I did not know them until we were introduced to the Church of Almighty God by an insider early this year. At that time, I was known that I have helped the North Korean refugees and we have done a lot of activities in China, so putting aside the religious color, there are some people suppressed on human rights and seeking help to me. Especially, I went to the Embassy of China many times to protest against the deportation of North Korean refugees. I thought these things make them think of me and ask me for help. Under such circumstances, I met the internal personnel of the Church of the Almighty for the first time and later went to the church once in order to investigate what happened to the believers. I myself am a Catholic. However, apart from religious aspect, the most important thing in human rights activities is the field investigation. Only through field investigation to communicate with those persecuted Christians can we determine how and to what extent we can make effort to help them. After the meeting, seeing the believers and hearing their stories, I affirm that the Chinese Communist Party is suppressing the freedom of belief which everyone ought to enjoy, and I personally see that these believers have difficulties in getting refugee status in South Korea. So I am willing to try my best to help them and I keep in contact with them afterward.

Q. Because you are a human rights activist, you do not tolerate such injustice. Is it on this ground that you help them?

A. Definitely. This is entirely in respect of human rights. Doesn’t South Korea now have a lot of churches? As long as they are not the same, they will be said as a heresy (one end), two ends, three ends, four ends (Homophonic puns in Korean). I am a Catholic believer. Sometimes there is such a thing: some Christian priests and elders will say that if we are from the same church, we will be able to help. I feel sorry to hear these words. In addition to religious differences, goals are consistent that everyone has the responsibility for human rights even regardless of the color. It is regrettable that people are separated because of different religions. I just feel that they have difficulties and need my help, then I will be with them, no matter what color they are.

Q. After meeting with the believers of the Church of Almighty God, how do you feel about them?

A. Though we speak different languages, but I feel quite good. When our North Korean compatriots suffer in China, those who can help them are Chinese people. Even if we are unified, China is still our neighboring country. Although I abhor the Chinese Communist Party, Chinese people are concerning our North Korean compatriots with the same heart as us. We shall have a good relationship with Chinese people and forge ahead together in Asia. However, these Chinese people are not treated fairly in South Korea, which makes me feel so ashamed. When they eventually return to their hometown after having freedom of religion, what kind of impression will we Korean peninsula leave them with? From this point of view, I think we shall stand together with them.

Q. If the overseas Christians who are forced into exile to South Korea because of persecution and suppression can meet refugee conditions. What do you think of this?

A. Of course it is necessary to present evidence. Isn’t there the concept of refugee itself in international law? When international law and domestic law are in conflict, international law shall be a priority. But China is not the case. So we are constantly telling stories of North Korean refugees and urge them to accept North Korean refugees, focusing on international law. The most important part of the recognition of refugee status is to consider the possibility of repression of the foreigners if they return to the home country. In this case, it is a shame that the Republic of Korea does not grant refugee status to those people who are very likely to be persecuted. I have received their materials and am in the process of understanding. If it is shown that the Korean law is not implemented properly or effectively, then I will fight for that.

Q. I’ve been looking into refugee verification documents for some time, but they seem to use some specific material as a benchmark. Recently, 35 people in Myanmar are recognized as refugees. Some people are accepted, and some are rejected. There seem to be a benchmark. What do you think?

A. I think there should be a basic principle. Application of law is the most important principle. Although there are some exceptions, what is important is that dealing with those exceptions shall stem from the regulations. At that point, I intend to make an observation of the application of the legislative issue. There will be some trying issues that worry our country’s civil servants. However, if just because it is difficult then those issues are dealt out of principle and given a self-determined measure, it would be a shameful and embarrassing thing for the Republic of Korea as a state close to the G10 circle. We will have more face-to-face discussion and cooperate more with our civil servants on the subject of implementation of appropriate international law.

Q. What kind of efforts are required for the Christians who have been exiled overseas because of religious oppression if they want to be recognized as refugees in South Korea? What is your opinion as a human rights activist?

A. As I just told you, there are definitely some aspects that shall be in compliance with legal principles. But aren’t there many things that can not be proven? In particular, concerning China which claim itself as G2 country in the world, will they officially show people that they are constantly repressing the religion? They will certainly not. The refugee applicants can only get the evidence of persecution by returning to the tiger’s den. I consider that the international law can be applied widely with exceptional clauses or special circumstances for this case. More policy spaces will make civil servants work more effectively. I will make further efforts for this.

Q. What do you want to say at last?

A. I would say, there will be no country that understand the importance of religious freedom more than the people of the Republic of Korea. Why? Because we enjoy the greatest freedom of religion. It’s like that we all shall be thankful to the air for we are only able to survive with it. Without air, one would die in two minutes. But now, people have no awareness to appreciate the air. Likewise, the people of the Republic of Korea seem to be unaware of the concept of freedom and it value. This may be a matter of human rights, or may become a matter of faith. Many problems may exist. I hope that the members of the Church of Almighty God, whose religious belief are oppressed, can secure the refugee recognition in South Korea. In addition, I earnestly hope that China will become a country of freedom of belief as soon as possible so that these refugees can return to their homeland to evangelize freely and have their own religious life. I will support them with all my strength wherever I am needed.

Original source: 


Stand at the Forefront of Justice with the Passion and Sense of Commission to the Issue of Human Rights

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