Politics of North Korean Refugees and Regional Security Implications - English - Maj Jacqueline D Chang
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Transcripts - Politics of North Korean Refugees and Regional Security Implications - English - Maj Jacqueline D Chang
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POLITICS OF NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND
REGIONAL SECURITY IMPLICATIONS
Jacqueline Danielle Chang
Thesis Advisor: Christopher Twomey
Second Reader: Edward Olsen
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6. AUTHOR(S) Jacqueline Danielle Chang
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13. ABSTRACT (maximum 200 words)
The North Korean refugee issue is a challenge to regional stability. In addition to humanitarian concerns, a mass
flow of refugees would have enormous impact on operations of the Republic of Korea's military and the U.S.
forces stationed in Korea and Japan. Regional players have an obligation to contribute to regional security.
Proactive and cooperative policy making by China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States to protect
North Korean workers and help North Korean immigrants assimilate could diminish the destabilizing triggers of
the refugee issue and offer multiple benefits, including increased regional stability.
15. NUMBER OF
14. SUBJECT TERMS North Korean refugees, Six Party, Republic of Korea, ROK, South
Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia,
Northeast Asia regional stability, UNC, CFC, USFK, UNC Rear, UNC Sending States,
Korean diaspora, assimilation, immigration, human rights, humanitarian assistance, stability
and reconstruction operations
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POLITICS OF NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND
REGIONAL SECURITY IMPLICATIONS
Jacqueline Danielle Chang
Major, United States Air Force
B.S., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1988
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF ARTS IN SECURITY STUDIES
(FAR EAST, SOUTHEAST ASIA, AND THE PACIFIC)
NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL
Author: Jacqueline Danielle Chang
Approved by: Christopher Twomey
Harold A. Trinkunas, PhD
Chairman, Department of National Security Affairs Chairman
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The North Korean refugee issue is a challenge to regional stability. In addition to
humanitarian concerns, a mass flow of refugees would have enormous impact on
operations of the Republic of Korea's military and the U.S. forces stationed in Korea and
Japan. Regional players have an obligation to contribute to regional security. Proactive
and cooperative policy making by China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United
States to protect North Korean workers and help North Korean immigrants assimilate
could diminish the destabilizing triggers of the refugee issue and offer multiple benefits,
including increased regional stability.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. THE NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE SITUATION.................................................1
B. PLAN OF THE THESIS .................................................................................2
C. BACKGROUND OF THE NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE
II. SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF THE NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE
A. REFUGEES AS A PROBLEM FOR THE MILITARY ON THE
B. OWNERS OF THE PROBLEM: UN COMMAND, UN COMMAND
REAR, COMBINED FORCES COMMAND AND U.S. FORCES
1. Command Structures.........................................................................17
2. Challenges to Military Support and Coordination: Information
Sharing and Logistical Planning.......................................................19
3. Constraints on Information: A Crucial Problem............................19
4. Planning without Commitment: The Logistical Challenges of
Inadequate Information and Coordination.....................................20
C. MEETING THE CHALLENGES: HUMANITARIAN EXERCISES
AS A SOLUTION TO INFORMATION AND LOGISTICS
D. COALITION DEVELOPMENT..................................................................26
III. THE NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE ISSUE AND THE SIX PARTY
A. NATIONAL AGENDAS OF THE SIX PARTY MEMBERS ...................32
B. NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND CHINA..........................................33
1. History of Relations between North Korea and China...................33
2. The Korean Diaspora in China.........................................................34
3. Obstacles to Addressing the Refugee Issue for China....................35
C. NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND JAPAN..........................................37
1. History of Relations between North Korea and Japan...................37
2. The Korean Diaspora in Japan.........................................................38
3. Obstacles to Addressing the Refugee Issue for Japan....................40
D. NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND RUSSIA ........................................43
1. History of Relations between North Korea and Russia..................43
2. The Korean Diaspora in Russia........................................................45
3. Obstacles to Addressing the Refugee Issue for Russia ...................46
E. NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND THE UNITED STATES..............46
1. History of Relations between the United States and North
2. The Korean Diaspora in the United States......................................47
3. Obstacles to Addressing the Refugee Issue for the United
F. NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA...50
1. The Changing Demographics of Defectors......................................50
2. Strangers in the Homeland: Social Issues of North Korean
Refugees in South Korea ...................................................................51
G. CONCLUSION ..............................................................................................52
IV. POLICY IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND ENGAGEMENT
A. A COMMON MODEL FOR NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE
B. BASIC ELEMENTS OF THE ASSIMILATION MODEL.......................57
C. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SIX-PARTY NATIONS...........58
1. Suggested Policy for China ...............................................................58
2. Suggested Policy for Japan ...............................................................58
3. Suggested Policy for Russia...............................................................60
4. Suggested Policy for the United States.............................................62
5. Suggested Policy for the Republic of Korea ....................................63
D. CONCLUSION ..............................................................................................63
LIST OF REFERENCES......................................................................................................65
INITIAL DISTRIBUTION LIST.........................................................................................71
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LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1. Map of the shared border between the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of China ....................................9
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LIST OF TABLES
Table 1. Number of Defectors by Year............................................................................7
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First of all I want to thank the Lord for granting me the perseverance to complete
this project. I would like to thank the Air Force Academy INSS, Jeff Kim, Bernie
Murphy, and Carol Chang for each of their unique contributions that made a complicated
research trip possible. Seeing things with my own eyes added an invaluable layer of
perspective to my overall research. To Professor Olsen, Professor Twomey, Professor
Lavoy, thank you so much for your patience and guidance—I will be forever grateful.
Thanks to my NPS peers in our “thesis group,” a significant part of my “Dudley Knox
social life,” as well as the wonderful Dudley Knox Library staff. My colleagues had
“thesis widows,” but I had a “thesis orphan”—thank you son for being so understanding
and a sport for all the take-out and frozen food you had to eat. Thanks Debra, José and
Pam, for coming to the editing rescue. Last but not least, I am especially grateful to my
mom, whose history inspired my choice in topic and whose strength, grace and positive
outlook on life, despite all the hardships she has endured, motivates me to keep trying
whenever I want to give up.
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I. THE NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE SITUATION
[W]hat terrifies South Koreans more than North Korean missiles is North
Korean refugees pouring South. The Chinese, for their part, have
nightmare visions of millions of North Korean refugees heading north
over the Yalu River into Manchuria.1
In the minds of most international observers, North Korea is associated with Kim
Jong Il and his nuclear brinksmanship. The international community and especially the
countries involved in the Six-Party talks—the United States, Republic of Korea (ROK or
South Korea), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea),
People’s Republic of China (PRC or China), Japan and Russia—have concerns about the
immediate and long-term impact of North Korean nuclear proliferation on Northeast
However, the North Korean nuclear program is not the only contentious issue in
Northeast Asia. In the competition for resources and attention in the policy realm,
humanitarian issues frequently fall in line behind security issues. But in the Northeast
Asian region, the humanitarian plight of North Korean refugees has a strong potential for
quickly destabilizing the region, thus jeopardizing its security. The North Korean refugee
situation might directly impact the delicate political balance among the Six-Party nations.
How each country addresses this issue can affect its future influence within the region.
Ignoring the issue poses the risk of a sudden change scenario accompanied by a mass
flood of refugees. This thesis advocates policies to remove the triggers that might cause a
refugee flow. Any nation taking a proactive stance on the refugee issue stands to gain
long-term influence within the region.
1 Robert D. Kaplan, "When North Korea Falls," Atlantic Monthly, October 2006.
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200610/kaplan-korea, accessed 8 October 2007.
B. PLAN OF THE THESIS
This thesis explores each of the Six Party nations’ stakes in the refugee issue, the
issue's potential impact on stability in Northeast Asia and the resultant risk to U.S.
regional security. This exploration and analysis is followed by recommendations for
proactive planning to anticipate and prevent potentially destabilizing refugee movement.
The research methodology includes a review of the relevant literature, supported by
conference attendance and personal interviews.2
Chapter I presents the background of the North Korean refugee situation, its
magnitude and causes, and how it is becoming a growing humanitarian and security
issue. The chapter reviews the legal history of the term “refugee,” which is important for
evaluating China’s claim that North Korean refugees are economic migrants. The
discussion describes how the refugee issue was thrust into the international spotlight, and
the reactions of each of the Six Party governments.
Chapter II describes the security implications of the North Korean refugee
situation for the Northeast Asia region and U.S. national interests. A large U.S. military
presence is stationed in Korea and Japan to defend the Republic of Korea against North
Korean aggression. In addition to the uncertainties surrounding the Kim Jong Il regime
and its nuclear threat, regional instability would increase with a sudden change scenario.
The chapter traces changes in the ROK–U.S. command relationship and describes how
the ROK’s growing independence and sovereignty impact the U.S. military role on the
peninsula with particular attention to potential refugee issues. It explores the
implications for the U.S., ROK, and coalition militaries if a refugee-related crisis
threatens regional stability, focusing on challenges to related coalition operations posed
by constraints on information sharing and logistical planning. The chapter proposes that
shifting emphasis in an annual exercise to a humanitarian refugee scenario would better
prepare military and civilians for a refugee-related crisis, enhance command capabilities,
2 Interviews were conducted by the author during travel to Yanji and Tumen, China for primary source
data. Because interviewees include members of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that provide
assistance to North Korean refugees, their names are not included for security reasons.
increase UN Command Sending State participation, improve communications and
logistics planning, and strengthen the overall coalition.
Chapter III reviews the stakes of each Six Party nation in the North Korean
refugee issue, covering each country’s historical relationship with North Korea, the
makeup of the ethnic Korean communities in Japan, Russia, and China, their immigration
history and the unique characteristics of each diaspora. The chapter describes the major
social problems associated with North Koreans’ resettlement in the Republic of Korea, as
well as the implications of North Koreans’ resettlement in the United States.
The history of ethnic Koreans in other countries sets the stage for assessment of
each nation’s ability and desire to provide the infrastructure necessary to absorb North
Koreans into their society. Successful assimilation of North Koreans in other countries
might have positive reach back to North Korean development. Each of the Six-Party
nations has a vested interest in Northeast Asian stability. If these nations were to
collectively adopt a solution to the refugee crisis, it might have a positive impact on the
nuclear issue and contribute to the long-term prosperity and security of the region.
Chapter IV presents policy recommendations for each Six-Party nation based on
each nation's historical ties with North Korea, its current economic and political situation,
and the potential receiving population within their country. The chapter addresses the
implications of allowing North Korean refugees to immigrate into each country, outlines
the required infrastructure and social programs, and evaluates the chances of successful
integration in each country’s social and economic structure.
Overall, this thesis aims to inform the reader of the magnitude of the North
Korean refugee issue, and by providing the background of the issue along with the
history of North Korea’s relations with the other Six-Party nations, illustrates how this
humanitarian issue also affects the security of the Northeast Asian region. The thesis
advocates implementing a proactive policy that will both contribute to regional security
and relieve the suffering of the refugees.
C. BACKGROUND OF THE NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE SITUATION
The decline of the North Korean economy since 1990, combined with several
natural disasters, led to famine conditions that dramatically increased the death rate in
North Korea. The famine peaked in 1996–1997, resulting in 50 deaths per 1,000 people.
A recent slight decrease in famine deaths may be ascribed to the ad hoc personal garden
plot created with the silent consent of the North Korean regime, mainly to allow a
temporary pressure valve for the food crisis.3 The number of total deaths in North Korea
is difficult to document, but estimates range from 600,000 to one million, equating to
between three and five percent of a population of about 20 million.4
This dire situation has forced many North Koreans, particularly in the northwest
provinces, to leave the country. This is further exacerbated by the DPRK’s “military
first” policy that channels most of the nation’s food resources to the government elite and
the armed forces.5 Most who leave North Korea can be classified into one of two
categories: economic migrants, who cross the border multiple times to seek work and
make money, and refugees, who leave North Korea to escape political persecution.
The categorization of these North Koreans is a politically charged issue. On the
one hand, China’s government regards them all as economic migrants, and does not
recognize any North Koreans entering China as refugees.6 On the other hand, various
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and humanitarian organizations refer to them as
refugees, not economic migrants. What distinguishes these two groups?
The 1951 Refugee Convention provides the answer. The Refugee Convention
was adopted on July 28, 1951, by the United Nations Conference of Plenipotentiaries on
the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons, which convened under General Assembly
3 Hazel Smith, Hungry for Peace: International Security, Humanitarian Assistance, and Social
Change in North Korea (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2005), 81-82.
4 Haggard and Noland analyze different sources of statistics and the methodology used to extrapolate
the numbers. Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland, Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid and Reform
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 73-76.
5 Smith, 85-86.
6 Joshua Kurlantzick and Jana Mason, “North Korean Refugees: The Chinese Dimension,” in Stephan
Haggard and Marcus Noland, editors, The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International
Response (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, 2006), 37.
resolution 429 (V) of December 14, 1950. The Convention went into force on April 22,
1954, in accordance with Article 43 of the Convention.7
The basis of the Refugee
Convention is to protect refugees from persecution in other countries through one critical
element, the principle of “non-refoulement,” which prohibits expulsion or return of
refugees. Article 33 of the 1951 Convention states,
No Contracting State shall expel or return [refouler8] a refugee in any
manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom
would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality,
membership of a particular social group or political opinion. 9
The controversy does not lie in the principle of refoulement, but rather in the
definition of the word “refugee” itself, as well as the question of whether a convention
written for a specific situation long ago can apply in today’s refugee situation. According
to the Convention of 1951, a person can be considered a refugee if their status is “a result
of events occurring before 1 January 1951” and the person has a
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, not
having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual
residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is
unwilling to return to it.10
The definition of refugee in the 1951 Convention presents a problematic
technicality in that it excludes anyone who became a refugee post-1951, or who was not a
refugee in Europe. However, the Protocol of 1967 changes what constitutes a refugee by
deleting the time and geographical requirements.11
Article 1, Paragraph 2 of the Protocol
7 Introductory note of the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, available at
1 April 2009.
8 French term meaning “to force back” or “to turn away.” French-English Collins Dictionary
http://dictionary.reverso.net/french-english/refouler, accessed 1 April 2009.
9 The 1951 Refugee Convention, available at http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/o_c_ref.htm,
accessed 1 April 2009.
10 The 1951 Refugee Convention.
11 Bill Frelick, “Evolution of the Term ‘Refugee,” U.S. Committee for Refugees website,
www.refugees.org/news/fact_sheets/refugee_definition.htm (accessed 8 January 2005; site discontinued).
states that the term “refugee” shall “mean any person within the definition of article 1 of
the Convention as if the words ‘As a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951…’
and the words ‘…as a result of such events,’ in Article 1 A(2) were omitted.” In
Paragraph 3, the Protocol further states, “The present Protocol shall be applied by the
States Parties hereto without any geographic limitation.”12
The intent in delineating the terms is to clarify what the signatories pledge to
uphold. China, the ROK, Japan, Russia, and the United States are all signatories to the
1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol; North Korea is not. Given the formal definition, the
categories of economic migrant and refugee are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Furthermore, there is nothing that keeps one from starting out as an economic migrant
and later becoming a refugee.13 The political implication of China's decision not to
recognize refugee status is that China sidesteps its obligations under the 1951
Convention. China does not want to deal with the North Koreans as refugees because it
worries about opening a Pandora’s Box which might detract from its focus on its own
Regardless of how North Korean cross-border migration is categorized, the
situation is a security concern to the region and hence, to the participants in the Six-Party
talks. Independent of the categorization question, there are multiple important issues that
require closer scrutiny, including instances of worker abuse, human trafficking and other
forms of human rights infringement. For instance, North Koreans seeking refuge or
political asylum often leave behind family who suffer reprisals as a result of their family
member’s departure. The regime’s reprisal mechanisms include imprisonment,
confinement to a “re-education” camps and even execution.15
12 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, available at
http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/o_p_ref.htm, accessed 1 April 2009.
13 For that matter, one might start as a refugee and become an economic migrant, although this
scenario is less likely.
14 This issue is discussed further in Chapter III.
15 One clearly documented example is that of Kang Chol-Hwan, who tells how his whole family was
sent to prison for the alleged crimes of his grandfather. Kang Chol-Hwan, The Aquariums of Pyongyang:
Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 40.
Table 1. Number of Defectors by Year16
During the past decade, the number of North Koreans crossing the North Korea-
China border and reaching South Korea each year has steadily increased (see Table 1).
One effect of this population flow is increased awareness within North Korea of the
contrast between conditions domestically and in other countries. Over the years, there
are stories of defectors sending information back to family and friends by returning to
personally relay what they have seen, or planting cell phones to allow North Koreans to
communicate with people in China or South Korea. In one incident, an NGO led by a
North Korean launched helium balloons over the demilitarized zone (DMZ) into North
Korea. Attached to each were a small pouch of rice and money, and a flyer describing
South Korean prosperity.17 The lack of empirical evidence on how effectively such
information seepage motivates potential defectors is an important area for further
research. Anecdotal claims that smuggled South Korean drama videos affected the
decision to defect suggest that information seepage into North Korea may contribute to
future increases in refugees.
Because there is no reliable tracking system, the estimated number of refugees
ranges from tens of thousands to up to 300,000.18
Those who cross illegally often remain
16 From the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Unification website.
http://www.unikorea.go.kr/eng/default.jsp?pgname=AFFhumanitarian_settlement, accessed 8 January
17 This came to the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission’s attention when
members of the Korean People’s Army issued complaints.
18 Hazel Smith provides detailed information on the problems and inaccuracies of the statistics. Hazel
Smith, “North Koreans in China: Defining the Problems and Offering Some Solutions,”
http://gsti.miis.edu/CEAS-PUB/2003_Smith.pdf, accessed 30 September 2004.
Pre-1989: 607 1994: 52 1999: 148 2004: 1,894
1990: 9 1995: 41 2000: 312 2005: 1,383
1991: 9 1996: 56 2001: 583 2006: 2,018
1992: 8 1997: 85 2002: 1,138 2007: 2,544
1993: 8 1998: 71 2003: 1,281 2008: (unavailable)
in hiding, increasing the difficulty of gathering statistics. Various NGOs have developed
internal statistics, but those who work near North Korea and most closely with the
refugees hesitate to provide information, fearing it might compromise their ability to
cooperate with the North Korean government or lead to persecution by the Chinese
A large population of ethnic North Koreans live in Yanbian, also known as the
Korean Autonomous Region, located in the Jilin province of northeast China, bordering
the Ryanggang and North Hamgyong provinces of North Korea (see Figure 1). Ethnic
Koreans have long inhabited this area and are co-opted by Chinese authorities to keep
regional order. The Koreans are given token positions in local government, but never fill
any higher-ranking or top positions in the Chinese government system.
The Korean–Chinese who reside in that region, and others who work for various
NGOs, run a sort of underground railroad for North Korean refugees, providing safe
houses where they can hide from the Chinese police. Late in the evenings, the refugee
knocks on the door and is taken in and given food, shelter, and money.20 Some remain in
hiding for months, never leaving the building for fear of being caught by the Chinese
The percentage of migrants crossing the border for economic reasons as opposed
to political reasons is not known. Some North Koreans have legal authority to cross the
borders multiple times; those who do not risk deportation back to the DPRK if caught by
a Chinese patrol. Those repatriated to North Korea are reportedly subject to numerous
human rights violations, ranging from forced abortion and infanticide of their new babies
to summary execution. Many are sent to prison for punishment or “re-education.”21
19 Smith, “North Koreans in China: Defining the Problems and Offering Some Solutions.” This point
is also raised by Scott Snyder in Paved With Good Intentions, The NGO Experience in North Korea, edited
by L. Gordon Flake and Scott Snyder (Westport, CN: Praeger, 2003), 114.
20 Based on the author's interview with a former North Korean involved in refugee assistance; the
source's identity is confidential due to personal security concerns.
21 Human Rights Watch website, “Denied Status, Denied Education: Children of North Korean
Women in China,” http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/northkorea0408web.pdf, accessed 8 July
Figure 1. Map of the shared border between the Democratic People’s Republic of
Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of China22
22 From United Nations, http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/profile/korean.pdf, accessed 30
The standard of living for North Koreans in Yanbian who evade deportation is
dismal. Their children do not have access to education and proper care, as they lack legal
status in China.23 Other examples of the plight of border-crossers are more extreme. One
North Korean woman who eventually made her way to the ROK told horrendous tales of
being sold as a sex slave, confined to a house and not allowed to leave. She was then
sold to another Chinese man, who took her to work and hid her in a “rubbish storage
place” so she could not run away.24 Some go into hiding to evade the Chinese guards
and avoid being sent back to DPRK prisons. Stories like these are repeated in the
testimonies of refugees who have immigrated to South Korea.25 Despite these
conditions, many North Koreans still see Yanbian as a refuge; there are reports of women
who seek traffickers to get them out of even worse conditions in North Korea.
Events captured by the media in 2002 highlight the international aspects of the
North Korean refugee situation. In May, CNN aired dramatic video footage of five North
Koreans (including a toddler on her mother’s back) attempting to run through the
Japanese consulate gates in Shenyang, China. Chinese police pursued and caught the
woman with the child and wrestled her to the ground, knocking the child off her back in
the process. The child stood by crying while the police dragged her mother back through
the gates, kicking and screaming.26
This incident shone a spotlight on the handling of a human rights issue by China
and Japan. The international community scrutinized the role of the Japanese embassy
personnel in the incident. There was some debate about whether the Japanese consular
staff initially helped the refugees or the Chinese police. The video appears to show the
Japanese consular staff standing by as the Chinese officials take away the refugees .One
of the staffers even stooped up to pick up and hand back the hats dropped by the three
23 From United Nations, http://www.un.org/Depts/Cartographic/map/profile/korean.pdf, accessed 30
September 2004, 8.
24 Testimony of Ji Hae-Nam to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on North Korean Human
Rights Violation, June 5, 2003, available at
http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2003/NamJiTestimony030605.pdf , accessed 30 July 2003.
25 Another detailed source is Kang Chol-Hwan.
26 “Video twist to Japan-China row,” BBC News, 10 May 2002. For video footage, see
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/1978817.stm, accessed 30 May 2002.
police officers; perhaps he was uneasy and unsure of exactly how to handle this unusual
situation. Eventually, the Japanese government pressured Chinese authorities to release
the North Koreans to Japanese officials who then assisted the North Koreans with travel
to the ROK.27 The Chinese government has since tightened security around embassy
compounds, as well as along parts of the North Korea-China border.
Since the incident at the Japanese consulate, attention to the North Korean refugee
issue has increased. On October 18, 2003, then President George W. Bush signed the
North Korean Human Rights Act (NKHRA), authorizing funding to assist the North
Korean refugees.28 The NKHRA also makes provisions for North Koreans to immigrate to
the United States, though to date, only about 43 refugees of 6,000 have been allowed to
immigrate.29 The NKHRA has elicited negative response not only from North Korea, as
expected, but also from the Republic of Korea, as this is an issue they prefer to handle
internally.30 However, as evidenced by the reduction of government funds provided to the
increasing number of refugees resettling in the ROK, this is fast becoming a problem the
South Koreans cannot handle alone.
A multinational, multidisciplinary organization to develop and implement policy
might prevent the refugee issue from destabilizing the Northeast Asia region. Until such
policy is created, there is the chance that a refugee crisis might occur. The next chapter
discusses the military and governmental entities primarily responsible for dealing with the
27 According to follow-up news, it appears that the Japanese officials allowed the Chinese police to
take away the refugees, and then changed their minds, most likely for political reasons. When North
Korean defectors break into an embassy, it is common for the PRC to demand a price from the embassy's
home nation. This price usually involves agreeing to install additional barriers to the embassy to make
future attempts harder.
28 For an update on the NKHRA, see Steve Wiscombe, "North Korean Human Rights Reauthorization
Act of 2008 Passes in Congress,” available at
http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00100&num=4104, accessed 30 October 2008.
29 “Ros-Lehtinen Introduces North Korea Human Rights Act Legislation co-authored with Chairman
Berman may see vote in late April,” 17 April 2008, press release on House Foreign Affairs Committee
website, available at
http://foreignaffairs.republicans.house.gov/list/press/foreignaffairs_rep/041708NK.shtml, accessed 30
30 For interesting responses to criticisms of the NKHRA, see Balbina Hwang, “Spotlight on the North
Korean Human Rights Act: Correcting Misperceptions,” Heritage Foundation, available at
http://www.heritage.org/Research/AsiaandthePacific/bg1823.cfm., accessed 30 March 2008.
humanitarian crisis should a refugee scenario occur on the Korean peninsula. It presents
recommendations to enhance capabilities to better deal with such a crisis.
II. SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF THE NORTH KOREAN
Following the Communist regime’s collapse, the early stabilization of the
North could fall unofficially to the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) and
U.S. Forces Korea (which is a semiautonomous subcommand of
PACOM), also wearing blue UN helmets. But while the U.S. military
would have operational responsibility, it would not have sole control. It
would have to lead an unwieldy regional coalition that would need to
deploy rapidly in order to stabilize the North and deliver humanitarian
assistance. A successful relief operation in North Korea in the weeks
following the regime’s collapse could mean the difference between
anarchy and prosperity on the peninsula for years to come.31
This chapter addresses the security implications of the North Korean refugee issue
for the Northeast Asian region. There is a large U.S. military presence on the Korean
peninsula and in Japan whose mission is to defend the Republic of Korea against North
Korean aggression.32 In addition to the uncertainty of the Kim Jong Il regime and its
nuclear threat, there is a high risk of regional instability arising from a sudden change
This chapter explores the implications of a refugee-related crisis for the ROK and
U.S. militaries in Northeast Asia and the coalition supporting the United Nations
Command in Korea. It begins by describing how refugees might present a problem to the
military on the Korean peninsula. The chapter then focuses on the military actors
responsible for security on the Korean peninsula who conduct exercises and would be
engaged in war fighting and humanitarian relief in the event of a sudden change scenario
in North Korea. The chapter describes how command relationships affect the military's
ability to respond to a refugee scenario and explores ways of improving exercises and
planning. Two major challenges to successful operations are identified: constraints on
information, and the effects of inadequate information and coordination on logistical
31 Kaplan, 2.
32 According to the United States Forces Japan Forces (USJF) website and United States Forces and
Korea (USFK) Public Affairs Office (PAO), respectively, approximately 50,000 serve in Japan and
approximately 28,500 in Korea. USJF website,
http://www.usfj.mil/Welcome_to_USFJ/Welcome_to_USFJ.html, accessed January 2009. Interview
between PAO officer and author, 8 March 2009.
planning. The chapter explores how focusing an annual exercise on a humanitarian relief
scenario might help overcome these challenges and forge better cooperation and
coordination among the parties involved while simultaneously helping prepare for the
possibility of a sudden change scenario involving mass movement of refugees.
A. REFUGEES AS A PROBLEM FOR THE MILITARY ON THE KOREAN
For years, people have predicted the collapse of the North Korean regime
accompanied by a mass exodus of refugees.33 Kim Jong Il’s regime managed to pull
through the wide-scale famine of the mid-1990s that many anticipated might lead to his
demise. Despite rumors of illness, he continues to maintain a semblance of control over
the North Korean population, although there are signs that his power has weakened in the
past decade. The numbers of North Korean refugees leaving through the Chinese border
and arriving in South Korea sharply increased over the last 10 years. Estimates range
from 20,000 to 200,000 refugees in a holding pattern in northeastern China.34
Non-conflict scenarios for North Korea focus on regime collapse and address
mass refugee exodus as a collateral issue. However, mass movement of refugees can
present serious security issues as well as humanitarian concerns. David Maxwell outlines
two soft landing and two hard landing scenarios.35 He posits that the former, which both
involve voluntary cooperation by the North Korean regime with South Korea, are less
likely than the hard landing scenarios.36 In the first of the two hard landing scenarios, a
“complete collapse and disintegration of the national government” is accompanied by a
33 Robert A. Wampler, editor, “North Korea’s Collapse? The End is Near–Maybe,” National Security
Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 205,
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB205/index.htm, October 26, 2006, accessed 30 April
2008. See also Kaplan.
34 It is not uncommon for defectors to South Korea to start up their own NGO or help other NGOs by
secretly injecting outside information to those North Koreans still sequestered from the global community.
Jack Kim, “South Korea NGOs set anti-Kim leaflet drop in North,” October 22, 2008,
http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-36092420081022, accessed 30 October 2008.
35 David S. Maxwell, “Catastrophic Collapse of North Korea: Implications for the United States
Military” (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1996), 11.
36 In the first soft landing scenario, Kim Jong Il realizes he is no longer an effective leader and agrees
to cooperate with the South in a phased unification; in the second, Kim Jong Il’s power is usurped in a coup
and a more moderate regime takes his place and cooperates with the South. Maxell deems both these
scenarios highly unlikely.
“breakdown of the internal security apparatus,” leading to a mass exodus of refugees
looking for scarce resources. The catastrophic consequence would be that the countries
they migrate to would be ill-prepared to support them, which could “cause extraordinary
population control measures to be instituted.”37 In the second hard-landing scenario, a
coup is staged and factions struggling for power cause a civil war, which would also lead
to a mass migration of people seeking both resources and safety. In short, the most
probable scenarios for regime collapse in North Korea are likely to involve massive
movement of refugees.
In a refugee scenario, tens of thousands of people would move en masse on the
peninsula. This would complicate military operations enormously should it coincide with
a conflict. Even in the absence of conflict, a refugee scenario, with a wide variety of
logistical, security and humanitarian challenges, might well produce pandemonium.
Such scenarios would constitute what former Agency for International Development
analyst Andrew S. Natsios calls a complex humanitarian emergency requiring integrated
responses from multiple actors, including the military.38
Experiences in Iraq and the relief efforts for the Asian tsunami, Pakistani
earthquake and Hurricane Katrina reveal much to learn about planning and coordinating
stabilization and reconstruction efforts and dealing with the humanitarian needs of large
groups of displaced persons. Problems range from the immediate, such as preventing the
spread of disease and providing adequate nutrition, shelter and security, to the long-term,
such as post-traumatic stress disorder, separated families, and providing schooling for
children and permanent homes for the displaced. This list is not exhaustive. Most of
these problems require vast resources and extensive interagency coordination.39
37 Maxwell, 15.
38 Andrew S. Natsios, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Humanitarian
Relief in Complex Emergencies (Washington, D.C.: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1997),
39 A North Korean refugee scenario presents the added security issue of North Korean agents
imbedded among the displaced population.
North Korean refugees present a political and humanitarian issue with huge
operational implications for military personnel on the Korean peninsula. As Kaplan
observes, any refugee scenario would have to be dealt with by the United States Forces
Korea (USFK) and ROK militaries.40
B. OWNERS OF THE PROBLEM: UN COMMAND, UN COMMAND REAR,
COMBINED FORCES COMMAND AND U.S. FORCES KOREA
The ROK–U.S. alliance is the core of military deterrent capabilities on the
southern Korean peninsula. Forged during the Korean War, the alliance has been
sustained since the signing of the armistice, surviving domestic turmoil spurred by ROK
President Park Chung-hee’s assassination, the subsequent military coup and the Gwangju
Democratization Movement. The relationship continues despite anti-American
sentiments, which peaked in 2002.41 Efforts by the ROK and U.S. militaries to forge
close working relationships through various outreach programs greatly contribute to the
maintenance of the ROK–U.S. alliance.42 The Korean People’s Army (KPA)
continuously attempts to drive a wedge into this tight relationship. Despite vast
differences between the previous ROK administration’s policies toward North Korea and
those of the U.S. administration, the alliance remains strong.
The alliance's deterrent properties are further reinforced by support from the
standing coalition of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Greece,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, and the United
Kingdom. Of the nations that supported the United Nations Command during the Korean
War, these 14 coalition countries continue to augment the present-day alliance, pledging
support in the event of another act of aggression against the Republic of Korea; along
with the Republic of Korea and the United States, they are collectively known as the
United Nations Command Korea. Although they did not sign the armistice, the 14 other
41 Anti-American sentiments were at a high during 2002 when Roh Moo Hyun ran on an anti-
American platform and won the presidential election.
42 Some examples are the CFC’s and USFK’s Good Neighbor Programs, which enhance community
relations between U.S. personnel serving in the ROK and local Korean citizens and businesses. Also, the
ROK Ministry of Defense hosts many U.S. service personnel and their families on cultural tours and
coalition members pledge to “again be united and prompt to resist” should there be “a
renewal of the armed attack, challenging again the principles of the UN.”43
Supporting a major crisis on the Korean Peninsula would be enormously more
problematic without UN Command Rear (UNC Rear), a major theater logistic enabler.
There are seven bases throughout Japan where accredited members of UNC Rear are
allowed to sail or fly in under the UNC flag.44 Because the government of Japan is
committed to providing support under a previous agreement, the UNC Rear commander,
an Army colonel, does not need to secure concurrence from the government of Japan.
Each time a UNC Rear-accredited Sending State sends a ship to port or an aircraft into a
UNC Rear base, merely informing the government of Japan meets the terms outlined in
1. Command Structures
Unique to the Korean theater is the command relationship between the ROK and
U.S. militaries, and how the UNC Sending States fit into this relationship.45 During the
Korean War, President Syngman Rhee allowed General MacArthur to take operational
command of Korean forces as the commander-in-chief of the United Nations Command,
the lead command responsible for ROK defense.46 On November 7, 1978, the Combined
Forces Command (CFC), including ROK officers, stood up for planning and defense of
43 The War History Compilation Committee, The Republic of Korea, History of U.N. Forces in
Korean War, Volume V (Seoul: Ministry of the National Defense, 1976), 473.
44 Not all accredited members of UNC Korea are accredited members of UNC Rear. Accredited
members of UNC Rear are Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, United
States and United Kingdom. Italy and the Republic of South Africa are still listed as accredited members
of UNC Rear, but are no longer accredited members of UNC Korea. According to the UNC Rear
Commander, if an accredited member of UNC Korea is not an accredited member of UNC Rear, they can
apply through the UNC Rear Commander for accreditation. The seven bases that support accredited
members of UNC Rear are Camp Zama, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Sasebo Naval Base, White
Beach, Kadena and Yokota Air Base, and Yokosuka Naval Base.
45 Although the United States is an accredited member of UNC, the bilateral nature of its relationship
with the ROK distinguishes it from the other members. For an in-depth discussion of command and legal
issues, see Donald A. Timm, “Visiting Forces in Korea,” in Dieter Fleck, editor, The Handbook of the Law
of Visiting Forces (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 443-469.
46 Won-Il Jung, “The Future of the United Nations Command in Republic of Korea” (Carlisle
Barracks, Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College, May 3, 2004), 10.
South Korea.47 This command structure remained in place until 1994, when peacetime
control of ROK forces was transferred back to the ROK military. In the event of war,
operational control of ROK forces will fall under the UNC Commander, a U.S. army
four-star general. After April 17, 2012, that wartime operational command will remain
under ROK control.
Many senior military personnel serving in the USFK also have authority in the
CFC and the UNC. The USFK Commander, an Army four-star general, wears “three
hats” as the UNC, CFC, and USFK commander, and carries the title of Senior U.S.
Military Officer Assigned to Korea (SUSMOAK). With the transfer of wartime
operational control of ROK forces back to ROK military leadership in the year 2012, the
CFC will dissolve and be replaced by the ROK Joint Forces Command (JFC) and the
U.S. Korea Command (KORCOM). The KORCOM Commander will be dual-hatted as
the UNC Commander, and both KORCOM and UNC will serve as supporting commands
to the ROK JFC.
An augmenting force capability not yet fully realized by the ROK and U.S. forces
on the Korean Peninsula is that of the UNC Sending States.48 Although the national
command authority of each UNC Sending State makes its own arrangements for
controlling their forces in a crisis, any forces contributed on behalf of a UNC Sending
State would likely fall under the UNC Commander's operational control (OPCON),
similar to MacArthur's Korean War authority as UNC Commander.49 This will also be
the case after the 2012 OPCON transfer.
47 Jung, 11.
48 For purposes of this thesis, the term “UNC Sending States” or “Sending States” refers to one or all
of the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Greece, Netherlands,
New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, and United Kingdom. The United States is also
Sending State. However, as the discussion in this thesis centers around how the other 14 Sending States
augment ROK and U.S. forces, the term as used here excludes the United States.
49 Jung states, “Because the allied troops constituted only about 10 percent of UNC ground forces, the
forces of other UN member states were integrated and attached into the U.S. units of appropriate size as
they arrived.” Jung, 3.
2. Challenges to Military Support and Coordination: Information
Sharing and Logistical Planning
[T]he more sophisticated the country, the more technologically advanced
its industries, and the more reliant is its policy on the use of defense as an
overt implement of diplomacy, then the more likely it is that the rules
governing military activity are nationally centered and exclude
collaboration with all but the most trusted allies. Even with the ‘most
trusted’ allies there will still be a tendency to release information and
goods only with explicit consent of higher authority.50
Korean theater command relationships present two major challenges to coalition
operations. The first challenge is information sharing. Even in command structures
where one nation leads a coalition, information sharing is often a limiting factor in
coalition operations. The ROK–US alliance is more complex; challenges to information
sharing in the multinational coalition environment complicate exercise scenarios when
UNC Sending States send representatives to participate alongside ROK and U.S. forces.
Furthermore, the ever-changing global political climate affects relationships
among the Sending States, the ROK and the U.S. These relationships have a profound
impact on logistics planning, which feeds into the second major challenge: developing
logistical plans with inadequate information and coordination with the coalition.
3. Constraints on Information: A Crucial Problem
Under the auspices of UNC/CFC/USFK, the ROK and U.S. militaries conduct
two major command post exercises each year, ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN and
KEY RESOLVE. Both are rehearsals for wartime defense of the ROK in the event of
North Korean aggression; neither emphasizes military response in the event of a mass
Since 2002, the UNC/CFC/USFK has made UNC integration a priority for the
two annual command post exercises. The ROK–US alliance requires concurrence
between the ROK and U.S. military leadership before decisions can be implemented.
The participation and integration of UNC Sending States is limited by the ROK's
50 Stuart Addy, “Logistic Support,” in Dieter Fleck, editor, The Handbook of the Law of Visiting
Forces (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 212.
reluctance to disclose OPLAN information to other UNC participants. The ROK's
hesitation is justifiable, as all UNC Sending States except France and the United States
maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea. Nonetheless, the limits on information-
sharing have far-reaching consequences, especially for logistical planning. Limited
information-sharing affects the integration of the UNC Sending States into the two annual
exercises on the Korean peninsula, which in turn affects planners' ability to anticipate and
prepare for both war fighting and humanitarian relief contingencies.
4. Planning without Commitment: The Logistical Challenges of
Inadequate Information and Coordination
During the Korean War, the United Kingdom was the first UN participant to
commit naval forces. They were integrated with the U.S. Navy just five days after the
start of the war.51 British ground troops, committed a month later, arrived approximately
60 days after hostilities commenced.52 Today, many of the Sending States have force
commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Should hostilities or crises develop on the Korean
peninsula, it is unclear which and how many UNC Sending State forces would be sent,
and how long it might take for them to arrive.
Commitment priorities for each Sending State’s troops and equipment are also
uncertain. The amount of resources the UNC Sending States can provide varies with
their level of economic strength. Their political relations with regional players impact
their willingness to offer support in a conflict or humanitarian crisis, and their political
relations with the ROK and the United States may affect which phase of a conflict they
choose to be involved in.
If war were to break out on the Korean peninsula tonight, numerous U.S. forces
would join the U.S. forces already stationed there. A plan lays out exactly which units
would come from where, how many personnel would be sent, the amount and type of
equipment they would need, and each unit’s mission. For example, a stateside unit with
F-16s dedicated to defending the Korean peninsula regularly trains and practices
51 War History Compilation Committee, History of U.S. Forces in Korean War, Volume II (Seoul:
Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea, 1973), 663.
52 War History Compilation Committee, 588.
scrambling the jets and gathering personnel to arrive in the Korean theater within a
specified amount of time, while logisticians on the peninsula practice doing everything
necessary to receive and support the unit upon its arrival.
In contrast, because the 14 individual UNC Sending States do not have standing
commitments specifying which forces and how many personnel they would send to
defend the ROK or support a humanitarian crisis, logistical planning is problematic. The
Sending States' decisions would be made when a crisis is brewing at the very earliest, or
as late as months down the road after a conflict breaks out.
Twice a year, the operational plan is exercised and U.S. forces' reception, staging,
onward movement, and integration (RSOI) are rehearsed. If the UNC Sending States’
assets are not spelled out in a plan, only limited RSOI processes can be exercised. These
processes include procedures for requesting specific capabilities and forces from the
UNC Sending States and accepting what the UNC Sending States offer of their own
volition. Should a crisis break out, a Sending State’s offer would depend on its available
resources and global commitments. Once an offer is made, ROK and U.S. senior
officials would confer with the Sending State National Command Element to decide
whether to accept it and how to employ the resources. On the other hand, ROK and U.S.
militaries might request assistance from a Sending State to fill a specific need. The
acceptance and offers procedure of UNC Sending State assets is very much a political
and economic process that creates situations where logisticians and support functions
have to react to the decisions made above them.
In the twice-yearly exercises, lack of information on likely resources from UNC
Sending States limits preplanning and makes it difficult to specify how units will
progress through RSOI. Furthermore, a host of additional questions plague the planning
process, including concerns about compatibility of equipment, supplies, communications,
personnel and procedures. The more knowledge of the Sending State’s capabilities and
support requirements, the easier it is to plan. The longer it takes for such questions to be
answered, the more likely that challenges to logistical support will compromise the
C. MEETING THE CHALLENGES: HUMANITARIAN EXERCISES AS A
SOLUTION TO INFORMATION AND LOGISTICS PLANNING
General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “You will not find it difficult to prove that
battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of
logistics.”53 A sudden change scenario and the subsequent humanitarian crisis would
present an unparalleled logistical challenge. As Robert Kaplan observes, in such a
situation, the United States would “lead an unwieldy regional coalition that would need to
deploy rapidly in order to stabilize the North and deliver humanitarian assistance.”54 The
coalition's unwieldiness results from the challenge of coordinating ROK and U.S. forces,
as well as the difficulty of integrating forces and support from the 14 UNC Sending
Suggested elements of joint phasing presented in a model consists of six phases:
Phase 0, Shaping; Phase 1, Deterrence; Phase 2, Seize the Initiative; Phase 3, Dominate,
Phase 4, Stabilization and Reconstruction; and Phase 5, Enable Civil Authority.55 A
refugee crisis would require responses focused at Phases 4 and 5, stabilization and
reconstruction and support for civil authority.
At the present time, the two annual exercises on the Korean peninsula focus
almost exclusively on wartime defense of South Korea, with little effort expended on
dealing with refugees. The closest scenario exercise is a noncombatant evacuation
operation (NEO) that simulates evacuation of approximately 123,000 noncombatants
from the Korean peninsula.56 However, after evacuation of noncombatants from the
peninsula during a NEO, responsibility for their care no longer rests with the
UNC/CFC/USFK. Potential refugee scenarios might involve similar numbers of people,
but would be accompanied by many more complexities. As described above, the mass
53 Logistics Quotations website, http://www.logisticsworld.com/logistics/quotations.htm, accessed 4
55 See Joint Publication 5-0, Joint Operation Planning (Washington, D.C.: Joint Staff, 26 December
2006), IV-35 through IV-37.
56 Author interview with USFK Current Operations section NEO Officer, Seoul, 13 November 2008.
migration of refugees on the peninsula would present tremendous short and long term
challenges, especially if it occurs during war fighting.
Although Maxwell notes that “planning for the defense of the ROK from attack
by the North is the primary focus of UNC/CFC/ROK, and USFK military commands,” he
also advises that it would be “prudent to examine other potential courses of action and at
least prepare concept plans that can be finalized if and when indicators show that such
other courses may come to fruition.”57
In order to develop such plans, it is crucial to know the UNC Sending State force
capabilities likely be contributed in such scenarios, as well as the accompanying
logistical details necessary for sustainment support. The challenge is to overcome the
information access limitation and its impact on logistics planning in order to better
integrate UNC Sending States into Korean peninsula exercises. The best solution is not
to force integration into the war-fighting exercises, but rather to create a new annual
exercise or replace one of the two war-fighting exercises with an exercise focused on
Stabilization and Reconstruction (Phase 4) and related civil military operations.
There are a number of advantages to pursuing such a shift in exercise scenarios.
Exercising a humanitarian scenario relies less on sensitive information than exercising a
war fighting scenario. As noted above, international relationships determine how much
information is shared. Dealing with a sensitive operational war plan increases the
restrictions. It does not make sense for UNC Sending States to spend time and resources
participating in the UNC/CFC/USFK exercises if they are denied necessary information.
The Sending States may agree to participate more fully in UNC/CFC/USFK humanitarian
scenario exercises with fewer restrictions on information sharing.
Furthermore, exercising a humanitarian scenario may more accurately mirror a
real world situation, as it is likely that most UNC Sending State participation would occur
during these later phases. In addition, operations in other theaters show that more
countries choose to participate in Phase 4, Stabilization and Reconstruction, as such
participation is politically less risky and more likely to gain domestic support. For all of
these reasons, UNC integration efforts seems most likely to succeed if focused less on
57 Maxwell, 2.
integration of the war fight and more on integration of subsequent operations to achieve
stabilization, reconstruction and enabling civil authority.
Overcoming information sharing restrictions by shifting focus to a humanitarian-
based exercise scenario offers an additional advantage, as it would allow the U.S. to take
the logistics challenge head-on. For the logisticians to do their job properly, agreements
should be reached first, as these establish the legal and regulatory foundation for the use
of monies and other resources.58 Some of the 14 UNC Sending States have agreements
with the ROK government, and some with the United States, to receive logistical support
while performing operations on the Korean peninsula. These agreements cover support
ranging from feeding and clothing military forces to servicing ground, air, and naval
assets and equipment. Exercising these agreements to test their sufficiency and
determine if updates or additions are required is critical to improving U.S. planning and
assuring mission success.
Towards this goal, UNC/CFC/USFK could enlist Pacific Command's (PACOM)
Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) to create an exercise involving all
UNC Sending States. The MPAT has conducted numerous humanitarian assistance and
disaster relief exercises, and has hosted participants from numerous Pacific Rim countries
and island nations. Their mission statement describes MPAT as a “cooperative
multinational effort to facilitate the rapid and effective establishment and/or
augmentation of a multinational task force headquarters” that “provides responsive
coalition/combined expertise in crisis action planning.”59
An operational concept with a general indication of estimated capabilities and
timelines can be developed without precommitting forces. Sharing information on
matters such as equipment interoperability, medical capabilities, force and equipment
capabilities and best practices would help integrate the RSOI of UNC Sending State
forces into the operations plan. As various factors would determine the type and amount
58 Examples are ACSAs (Acquisition Cross-Servicing Agreements) and MOAs (Memoranda of
59 U.S. Pacific Command, Multinational Planning Augmentation Team (MPAT) website,
http://www1.apan-info.net/Default.aspx?alias=www1.apan-info.net/mpat, accessed 1 November 2008.
of assets committed, firm commitment of actual forces must wait until they are needed.
However, an operational plan for integrating the processes of likely participants can be
prepared and codified in advance.
Humanitarian-based scenarios also offer an opportunity to engage and develop
relationships with a variety of governmental and nongovernmental organizations whose
participation in a crisis would be crucial for successful resolution. Exercising
interagency relationships can maximize efficiencies in the event of crisis. For example,
the U.S. Department of State, intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and the ROK
Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) and Unification (MOU) might all be
involved and more easily integrated into a humanitarian refugee exercise scenario. There
would be much value added if information gleaned from such exercises were integrated
into logistics and command processes.
The activities of NGOs may impact security in the region because these groups
have the potential to affect the North Korean regime. In Paved with Good Intentions:
The NGO Experience in North Korea, L. Gordon Flake and Scott Snyder examine
interactions in North Korea between the North Korean government and NGOs from the
United States, Europe, and South Korea.60 The NGO personnel have exposure to parts of
North Korea kept inaccessible to the international media and the world community; their
insight adds valuable perspective to the inner workings of the DPRK government. As
Victor Cha notes, since North Korea is an opaque state, much U.S. policy is based on
assumptions. Information from NGO experiences can help improve policy. Furthermore,
interagency coordination with NGOs and IGOs can bridge the gap between policy-
making and practical implementation, which would be useful for international
community assistance in the reconstruction and stabilization of North Korea.
Snyder and Scott found that the NGOs’ experiences in other countries did not
prepare them for dealing with the DPRK regime in administering humanitarian aid.61 In
a disaster response, NGO personnel generally encounter fragmented governmental
structures. In the DPRK, the government is intact and highly controlling, posing a great
60 Flake and Snyder.
61 Flake and Snyder, 3.
impediment to NGO efforts at food distribution and other humanitarian aid.62 Likewise,
the DPRK government was in a difficult position; they were heavily dependent on
outside help for food assistance after the 1995 famine brought about by natural disasters,
yet accepting help required opening up to outsiders and relinquishing a degree of control
over their population.63
In an attempt to maintain control, the DPRK government imposed strict controls
on personnel allowed into the country. For example, no Korean-speaking personnel were
admitted, increasing the NGO’s reliance on government escorts. This presented
additional constraints, since there were limited numbers of escorts available.64 Even with
escorts, the NGOs were not allowed in certain parts of the country for military security
reasons.65 As a result, it was difficult to monitor food distribution. (DPRK officials may
have purposely impeded monitoring to facilitate hoarding by the elites).
In addition to providing humanitarian aid, the intervention affected the
perceptions of the DPRK technocrats entrusted to escort the NGO participants. Their
time with NGO personnel revealed the nature and the seriousness of their country's
situation. Flake and Snyder believe these technocrats can serve as catalysts for change.
They might influence their government to move beyond food aid and tight control, accept
developmental assistance and restructure the regime, eventually creating a more open
society and contributing to the world community.66
D. COALITION DEVELOPMENT
Revising the annual exercises on the Korean peninsula to integrate refugee
scenarios would affect the U.S. military stationed on the Korean Peninsula, Japan and
elsewhere in the Pacific.67 The government of Japan allows use of UNC Rear bases
62 Flake and Snyder, 2.
63 Ibid, 3.
64 Ibid, 6.
65 Ibid, 7.
66 Ibid, 117.
67 Approximately 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed on mainland Japan and Okinawa. USFJ homepage,
http://www.usfj.mil/Welcome_to_USFJ/Welcome_to_USFJ.html, accessed 4 January 2009.
throughout Japan for logistical support of the Korean theater. A multinational coalition
humanitarian scenario exercise might pave the way for Japan’s participation and
contribute to a better working relationship between the ROK military and the Japan Self
The UNC coalition is sometimes identified as more valuable in presenting a
unified international face to the North Koreans rather than as a force provider, but these
functions are not mutually exclusive. Although UNC Sending States’ forces are small
compared to U.S. forces, many have niche capabilities that could tip the balance in a
crisis, especially if their capabilities are matched to gaps and shortfalls. Encouraging
greater integration by the Sending States, even in a restricted information sharing
environment, might provide answers to numerous logistical questions useful in planning
to maximize the use of these forces.
Maxwell advises developing a contingency plan (CONPLAN) for non-conflict
scenarios. Altering a command post exercise to include a focus on Phase 4 operations
would facilitate spelling out how UNC Sending State forces would be integrated.
Integration of UNC resources in the last three exercises has posed tremendous challenges
due to information disclosure issues. Based on other theater operations, if most UNC
Sending State participation occurred in Phase 4 operations, there are ways to practice
processes and develop relationships to maximize interoperability and efficiency among
the ROK, the U.S., and the Sending State nations.
With the current command structure, UNC forces would be led by the 4-star U.S.
commander; this structure will remain after the OPCON transfer in 2012. After the
OPCON transfer, the U.S. will take a “supporting to supported” role. The ROK will
control their own forces even in wartime, and U.S. forces, together with UNC forces, will
provide support as needed.
The UNC integration emphasis began in 2004, and the ROK military, focused on
the 2012 OPCON transfer, has not fully engaged with the integration concept. It would
benefit the ROK to take more interest in UNC Sending State integration. The Civil
Military Operations Division (CMOD) is a growing, ROK-led organization in charge of
civil military operations on the Korean peninsula. As a developing organization, the
CMOD has the potential to coordinate UNC Sending State assets with its own
organization and missions. Although the CMOD is the coordinating agency with IGOs
and NGOs, there is little day-to-day interface among the groups during armistice. Given
the reasonable assumption that UNC Sending States forces would be most heavily
represented during Phase 4, and that IGOs and NGOs will also have a strong presence in
this phase, it would behoove the ROK government to encourage their CMOD to interface
with these agencies.
Representatives of the Naval, Air, Ground, and Special Operations components
and staff agencies such as the Surgeon’s office and subsections of the logistics
community have inquired during exercise planning conferences about the capabilities that
would be provided by UNC Sending States in a conflict. Because current conditions
preclude Sending States from participating in exercise planning by restricting information
dissemination, such questions remain unanswered. This leaves a planning gap at the
operational level. Should conflict break out, UNC Sending States will still be integrated,
but without prior planning. Integration and interoperability coordination would be
awkward, and subsequent logistic support would be at best a reaction-based, muddle-
through process, an afterthought rather than a well-planned out process. Kaplan’s
depiction of the United States as leading an “unwieldy regional coalition” would likely
seem a vast understatement.
Since information disclosure is the main limiting factor, the CFC should take the
lead in creating a forum where the relevant agencies of the ROK, the United States, UNC
Sending States, and various IGOs and NGOs can share information and develop
cooperative relationships. No OPLAN information would be required, and the results of
this collaboration could be integrated into the OPLAN. As relationships grow and trust is
fostered, full integration into the exercises may become more likely.
MPAT was already mentioned as an avenue to this end. For the ROK-led
CMOD, the recommendation would be to embed U.S. civil affairs and foreign area
officers into its organization, and consult with professionals of various other disciplines.
Nowadays, the NGOs and faith-based organizations that have banded together to help
North Korean refugees are organized and knowledgeable through field experience with
the North Korean population. Specialists in health care, psychology, education and social
work are studying the North Koreans and their ability to assimilate into South Korean and
American society. Along with demographic analyses, their knowledge might be
indispensible in planning responses to sudden change scenarios involving North Korean
refugees. As an added benefit, research from such collaboration might contribute to
development of alternative U.S. policy approaches towards the North Korean nuclear
This chapter addressed the responsibilities of the U.S., ROK, and coalition
militaries should a refugee crisis emerge. This chapter also addressed the potential
magnitude of the North Korean refugee issue should no proactive actions be taken. The
following chapter switches focus from reactive to proactive. It discusses each of the
regional players who have a stake in the refugee issue and outlines the bilateral issues
each has with North Korea that may inhibit it from addressing the issue. That
information is used to inform policy recommendations intended to preclude a refugee
crisis from occurring.
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III. THE NORTH KOREAN REFUGEE ISSUE AND THE SIX
The North Korean refugee issue may not be in the forefront of any of the Six
Party nations’ agendas, but if left unchecked, it has the potential to become a
destabilizing humanitarian disaster. Its impact in terms of human and economic costs
might even surpass the 2004 Asian tsunami or 2005 Hurricane Katrina. North Korea’s
neighbors should not wish the refugee problem away, but should be proactive and
implement policy to mitigate its potential to become an unmanageable problem.
To lay the groundwork for policy recommendations in Chapter IV, this chapter
begins by reviewing each country’s historical relationship with North Korea. Because
international relations influence the perceptions of each receiving population toward
North Koreans who may want to immigrate, the historical background provides insight to
factors that may hinder a country’s desire to address this issue, providing the perspective
necessary for developing sound policy.
The Korean diaspora constitutes an important subpopulation of each country. The
United States, China, and Japan together represent 80 percent of the overseas Korean
population.68 Details on the nature of the Korean populations in China, Japan, Russia,
and the United States can suggest the type of policy each country might most profitably
develop. These Korean diasporas are potential conduits between the receiving
populations and new North Korean settlers, and their characteristics may hinder or assist
refugee assimilation. The discussion of South Korea centers on North Koreans who have
already immigrated and the problems associated with their integration into South Korean
National policies will influence North Korean immigrants' ability to assimilate
and succeed in their new environments. South Koreans living abroad had a significant
68 The next largest concentrations are in the Commonwealth of Independent States, in which
Uzbekistan has the highest number, followed by Russia, and in Canada. Inbom Choi, “Korean Diaspora in
the Making: Its Current Status and Impact on the Korean Economy” in C. Bergsten and Inbom Choi,
editors, The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International
Economics, 2003), 17–18.
impact on the economic development of their home country, and the success of North
Koreans abroad could have a similar impact on North Korean development.69 If the Six
Party nations work together to resolve the refugee issue, they can develop a solution that
both eases the suffering of the refugees and has a positive effect on the rest of the North
Korean people. A solution might encourage North Korea to become a more open society,
and a more open society is more transparent. Greater transparency, in turn, might help
resolve the bilateral issues between North Korea and each of the individual countries,
including the nuclear issue.
For example, if each country were to create a guest worker program that legalized
North Korean immigration and employment, not only could North Koreans have a legal
outlet to work and support their families, but countries like Japan and Russia could
alleviate their worker shortage problems, and China's borders would become more
secure. Indeed, such measures might lead to greater overall security in the Northeast
Asian region. Awareness of potential short and long term problems likely to emerge
from the refugee issue is critical for developing policies and programs to alleviate the
situation. The challenge is to formulate policy acceptable to all of the Six Party nations.
A. NATIONAL AGENDAS OF THE SIX PARTY MEMBERS
Each Six Party nation has its own issues and concerns with North Korea that
influence each country's incentives in dealing with the refugee issue. For China, the
numbers of refugees flowing across their shared border is an unwanted distraction. Any
event triggering a mass exodus threatens regional stability and would be a major detractor
to China’s current focus on economic and military growth. North Korea has a large
monetary debt to Russia, which it is paying off by sending labor forces to work in the
timber industry in the Russian Far East (RFE) region, where Russians themselves are
unwilling to work and live. South Korea is concerned with the economic and social
ramifications of reunification, while Japan wants to resolve the abduction of its citizens
69 Choi describes how the Korean diasporas abroad affected the development of the Korean economy
through trade and investment, funds transfers, and the labor market. Inbom Choi, “Korean Diaspora in the
Making: Its Current Status and Impact on the Korean Economy” in C. Bergsten and Inbom Choi, editors,
The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics,
before moving onto any other issues, including the nuclear issue. The United States’
main efforts on North Korean issues focus on the nuclear issue rather than the
humanitarian needs of refugees. If the Six Party nations were to collaborate and develop
policy to address the refugee issue, this policy might alleviate or resolve many such
B. NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND CHINA
Of all the Six Party nations, China holds the key to the fate of the North Korean
refugees. The 868-mile shared border, and the large ethnic Korean population living
across the Tumen River in the Yanbian Autonomous Region, facilitate North Koreans'
escape and provide a place for them to hide.70 Chinese authorities are unwilling to
sanction asylum, and despite condemnation from the international community for human
rights violations, they frequently return captured refugees to face a dismal fate in North
Korea. To China, international disapprobation is the lesser of the two evils, especially
when the alternative is collapse of the North Korean regime followed by a mass exodus
of refugees into their territory.
1. History of Relations between North Korea and China
Historically, China has very strong cultural ties to the whole of the Korean
peninsula. Ideologically and economically, China has been a staunch supporter of North
Korea, especially when it came to North Korea’s aid during the Korean War. However, a
relationship once described as “close as lips to teeth” has become distant and pragmatic.
The year 1992, when China normalized relations with South Korea, marked the turning
point in the relationship. The deteriorating relationship was further degraded with North
70 According to Si Joong Kim, approximately two million ethnic Koreans live in China, which is about
40 percent of all overseas Koreans. In China, the largest concentration of ethnic Koreans lives in Yanbian.
Si Joong Kim, “The Economic Status and Role of Ethnic Koreans in China” in C. Bergsten and Inbom
Choi, editors, The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy, (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International
Economics, 2003), 103–104.
Korea's nuclear test in 2006.71 The past and present value of North Korea for China has
been to serve as a buffer zone between China and democratic South Korea with its large
As it stands now, China wants to focus on developing its economy. North Korean
relations with China might improve if it were to follow suit under Chinese tutelage.
China is interested in maintaining a stable North Korea and North Korean regime, as it
wants to maintain its buffer zone and is not ready to absorb a mass exodus of refugees
should the regime or state of North Korea fail.
2. The Korean Diaspora in China
The second largest population of Koreans outside the peninsula is concentrated in
China.72 Many ethnic Koreans migrated to China between 1850 and 1945, propelled by a
variety of motives, including escape from the famine in Korea and the Japanese
occupation.73 Within China, the majority of ethnic Koreans are concentrated in Yanbian,
a section in Jilin province (also known as the Korean Autonomous Region) where PRC
minority policy grants ethnic Koreans regional autonomy.74 This clustering of ethnic
Koreans has allowed them to maintain much of their cultural heritage and language.
Many signs throughout the city of Yangi are written in both Hangul and Chinese, and it is
not uncommon to come across bilingual Hangul and Mandarin speakers.
Because Yanbian is geographically contiguous with North Korea and because of
the PRC’s isolation from South Korea prior to normalization of relations, the ethnic
Koreans in this region are culturally closer to the North Koreans than the South Koreans.
However, due to strengthened Chinese–South Korean relations, increasing numbers of
71 Peter Hayes, the executive director of the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainable
Development, is quoted in a background paper as saying that China became a “bad patron” when it
normalized relations with South Korea, and the DPRK lost its status as China’s “tributary state.” Jayshree
Bajoria, “The China-North Korea Relationship,” Council on Foreign Relations.
http://www.cfr.org/publication/11097/ , accessed 30 October 2008.
72 The largest concentration is in the United States. Choi, “Korean Diaspora in the Making: Its
Current Status and Impact on the Korean Economy,” 17.
73 Si Joong Kim, “The Economic Status and Role of Ethnic Koreans in China” in C. Bergsten and
Inbom Choi, editors, The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy (Washington, D.C.: Institute for
International Economics, 2003), 102.
74 Si Joong Kim, 109.
South Koreans immigrate or travel to northeast China for business purposes. As the
influx of South Korean businesses increases the need for Chinese networks and language,
ethnic Korean–Chinese have been drawn to these locations.75
Because of geographic accessibility, North Korean refugees turn to the ethnic
Koreans in China for help in defecting. Bribing the North Korean guards, they make
their way across the Tumen River into China to find food or a way to make money to take
back to their families. Korean–Chinese are willing to help the refugees for several
reasons. Familial ties tend to make ethnic Koreans in China more sympathetic than their
counterparts in other countries. Furthermore, during the famine in China in the late
1950s and early 1960s, many ethnic Koreans crossed from China into North Korea to
find food.76 Now that the flow is reversed, this shared history, combined with their
Korean identity, gives many Korean–Chinese a sense of kinship, allowing them to
identify and sympathize with the North Koreans' plight.
3. Obstacles to Addressing the Refugee Issue for China
Because it fears a flood of refugees, the Chinese government routinely repatriates
North Koreans despite condemnation from the international community, justifying their
return under an agreement between China and North Korea. China’s stance is that North
Korean repatriation is a bilateral issue, and North Korea has sovereignty over its people.
What China does not want is a unified Korea with strong ties to the United States
on its border. If a unified Korea would maintain close ties to the United States, China has
less incentive to address the refugee issue if doing so might contribute to Korean
unification. However, if China believed that a unified Korea would be more influenced
by and have closer diplomatic ties to China, it would more likely address the refugee
It is interesting to note that China forms relations through economic projects with
numerous smaller powers in South America and Africa, yet neglects to form such
relations with North Korea. Although North Korea may not be as rich in resources as the
75 Si Joong Kim, 114.
76 Ibid, 111.
other countries China seek ties with, its geographical location is advantageous. Should
North Korea reform economically, open itself to the global community, and support a
major economic project like the Iron Silk Road, China would be a major regional
beneficiary.77 China has attempted to coax North Korea to reform economically, without
success. Chinese influence might be strengthened if they addressed the refugee issue.
Suzanne Scholte sums it up succinctly in an editorial in the Korea Times:
The Chinese Government and even U.S. policy makers have an unfounded
fear that if China showed compassion to the refugees, this could cause de-
stabilization: they fear China would be flooded with refugees and this
could lead to the collapse of the North Korean regime. This fear is not
only unfounded, but is prolonging the suffering of the North Korean
refugee. This refugee situation is unlike any in the world as the refugees
have a place to go – South Korea and other countries! Furthermore,
refugees are leaving North Korea mostly because of famine-like
conditions and most want to go back – even those who have resettled in
South Korea want to go back to North Korea once Kim Jong-il is gone or
reforms are enacted. If fleeing refugees could lead to the collapse of the
regime, it would have happened by now. After 500,000 crossed the border
and 3 million people died, Kim Jong-il’s grip on power never faltered. By
abiding instead by its international treaty obligations and allowing
refugees safe passage to South Korea this would instead be a means to
subtly pressure Kim Jong-il and his regime to reform, something that is
also in China’s best interest. When reform comes to North Korea,
conditions will improve and China will no longer have to deal with this
refugee problem, because North Koreans will not need to flee – so China
is prolonging this refugee problem by their policy.78
Should China change its stance on the North Korean refugee issue and help
facilitate refugees’ gradual assimilation in its own country, as well as other countries, it
could be the first step to prevent the scenario China fears the most—a sudden flow of
refugees crossing its shared border with North Korea. Furthermore, once North Korea
77 Interview with David Kang, “Kang: North Korean Trade Potential,” Council on Foreign Relations
website, http://www.cfr.org/publication/15056/kang.html, accessed 30 March 2009. Kang also talks about
the potential economic benefits of connecting various railway systems in China, Russia and Korea, and
how it can serve to bolster both trade and security within the region. Victor Cha and David Kang, Nuclear
North Korea (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 107.
78 Suzanne Scholte, “What President Obama Should Do About North Korea,” Korea Times, January
sees that it cannot do anything about the international community’s gradual absorption of
its citizens, it could eventually be coerced into becoming a more open society and more
open to economic reforms.
C. NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES AND JAPAN
There is not much literature on the North Korean refugee issue and its
implications for relations between Japan and the Korean peninsula. This may be because
so few North Korean refugees have resettled in Japan in comparison with the number in
South Korea. However, an uncontrolled sudden change scenario with a mass exodus
might overwhelm Japan with boat refugees.79
This section fills the gap in the literature by examining the implications of the
North Korean refugee situation in the context of historical relations between Japan and
the two Koreas, illustrating how the refugee situation continues to influence the
relationships between Japan and the two Koreas. Japan might work towards healing its
damaged relationships with its neighbors by addressing the refugee issue. If Japan were
to focus its resources and military capabilities on humanitarian-based missions, and the
region were to become more secure and prosperous as a result, inter-regional relations
would improve. Japanese government policy on this issue might help or hinder its
relations with the two Koreas and with others in the region.
1. History of Relations between North Korea and Japan
Of all the relationships between countries in Northeast Asia, none face so many
obstacles as those involving Japan and the two Korean governments. After fighting the
Chinese in 1894–95 and the Russians in 1904–5, the Japanese gained control of the
Korean Peninsula. A Japanese protectorate from 1905, Korea endured many hardships,
especially during the Japanese occupation (1910 to 1945). Relations between Japan and
South Korea have improved immensely in the past half-century, while those between
Japan and North Korea remain frustrating. The bitter history of the occupation created so
79 Tessa Morris-Suzuki, “Refugees, Abductees, ‘Returnees’: Human Rights in Japan-North Korea
Relations,” Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 29 March 2009, available at http://www.japanfocus.org/-
Tessa-Morris_Suzuki/3110, accessed 1 April 2009, 4.
much enmity that friendly relations between a unified Korea and Japan seem
unattainable. Numerous disagreements stem from the governments’ inability to agree on
what happened in their shared history and lead to disputes over school textbook contents.
Despite these differences, Japan and South Korea have improved relations since
the colonial period, with the greatest gain for South Korea occurring during Park Chung
Hee’s presidency (1963–1979). Unlike his predecessors Rhee Syngman and Yun Bo-
seon, Park Chung Hee embraced Japan as a nation to emulate in its infrastructure,
government structure, bureaucracy, and economic and technical development. Although
he is remembered most for his dictatorial leadership style, Park is also the president given
the most credit for South Korea’s near-miraculous economic growth.80 Park's
accomplishments required opening his mind to see Japan as a model, but Koreans in
general are unwilling to acknowledge this, particularly when their attention is focused on
Japanese atrocities during the occupation. Unresolved issues revolving around territorial
disputes, "comfort women" (sexual slavery), and school textbooks fuel the continued
bitter relationship between Japan and Korea. Interestingly, Korean and Japanese youth
pop culture is a common interest connecting the two cultures, but much more is required
to overcome the rancor of the past and establish a conciliatory relationship.
2. The Korean Diaspora in Japan
Japanese–Korean relations are strongly shaped by the history of how the Korean
diaspora came to Japan, the development of its “civil rights” in subsequent decades, and
the impact of Japanese–Korean relations on Japanese policies toward domestic Koreans.
A historical perspective explains why the Koreans living in Japan overwhelmingly
support North Korea.
During the Japanese occupation, Koreans were imported as forced labor in Japan.
Later, while some remained in Japan, many were repatriated to North Korea. Ethnic
Japanese wives accompanied their ethnic Korean husbands repatriated to North Korea
80 Richard Saccone, Koreans to Remember: 50 Famous People Who Helped Shape Korea, (Elizabeth:
Hollym International, 1993), 24. See also General Lee Chi-Op, Call Me “Speedy Lee”: Memoirs of a
Korean War Soldier (Seoul: Won Min Publishing House, 2001), 253.
and have since not been allowed to return to Japan. North Korea’s refusal to allow the
Japanese women to return home is among the North Korean human rights violations
identified in Japanese draft legislation.
Collectively, Koreans in Japan constitute the largest ethnic minority. They run
over half of the pachinko parlors, which make gambling a large source of revenue for
remittances sent to relatives in North Korea.81 There are two groups within the Korean
community in Japan: the “Mindan,” with close ties with the South Korean government,
and the “Chongryun,” aligned with the North Korean government. The Chongryun run
most of Japan's Korean schools, offering education ranging from elementary school to
university level.82 Korean immigrants wanting a Korean education for their children
ended up supporting this pro-North Korean group. Right after the Korean War, many
Japanese–Koreans did not support the Mindan because South Korean military
governments and their close relations with the United States were unpopular.83
Discrimination is yet another obstacle to Japanese–Korean relations.84 Koreans
face discrimination in Japan when applying for jobs, in personal relationships and in
many other social situations. On a social level, Koreans who live in Japan frequently
adopt Japanese names and hide their Korean heritage in an attempt to assimilate. It is one
thing to maintain one’s own identity and take on the qualities prescribed by another
society in order to assimilate; it is another to have to completely deny one’s own heritage
to be accepted. For example, in Japan, it is considered a test of true love for a Japanese
person to stay in a romantic relationship after learning that his or her love interest is
actually ethnically Korean.85
81 Saccone, 87
82 Mike Mervio, “The Korean Community in Japan and Shimane,” http://gsti.miis.edu/CEAS-
PUB/200206Mervio.pdf, 5, accessed 31 October 2004.
83 Mervio, 217.
84 Toshiyuki Tamura discusses Japanese government policies of that institutionalized such
discrimination. She states that ethnic Koreans’ “legal status is one of the crucial factors that have enabled
the Japanese to segregate these people from daily opportunities.” See Toshiyuki Tamura, “The Status and
Role of Ethnic Koreans in the Japanese Economy” in C. Bergsten and Inbom Choi, editors, The Korean
Diaspora in the World Economy (Washington, D.C.: Institute for International Economics, 2003), 77-97.
85 Mervio, 223.
At an institutional level, Koreans living in Japan have been subject to a variety of
foreigner registration systems. The original system required carrying fingerprint
identification cards. With the evolution of Japanese immigration laws, requirements for
some Koreans on special permanent resident status were loosened, while those in other
categories continue to be required to carry special identity cards.86 Though it is illegal to
ask whether someone is Korean or not, places like private clubs circumvent this rule by
requiring new members to show their koseki, a family registration card.87 Thus, despite
laws to eradicate discrimination, a more subtle form of discrimination towards non-
Japanese has emerged.
It is ironic that Japan’s discriminatory policies toward its Korean population seem
to undermine its position at a time when Japan wants to forge stronger economic relations
with South Korea. Because of the pressure to assimilate totally, “the loss of Korean
language among Koreans in Japan alienates them from contemporary Korean society and
deprives these individuals as well as Japanese society of a chance to bridge Japanese and
3. Obstacles to Addressing the Refugee Issue for Japan
Memories of the Japanese occupation are not the only obstacle to better relations
between Japan and North and South Korea. A major issue between Japan and North
Korea is the August 1998 launching of the 1500 km range Taepodong 1 missile, which
flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean. In response, the Japan Air Self-Defense
Force deployed E-2Cs early warning aircraft and other aircraft, and the Japan Maritime
Self-Defense Force dispatched P-3Cs maritime patrol aircraft and vessels to the Sea of
Japan to gather information. The Defense Agency conducted a search for debris but none
86 Toshiyuki Tamura, “The Status and Role of Ethnic Koreans in the Japanese Economy” in C.
Bergsten and Inbom Choi, editors, The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy, (Washington, D.C.:
Institute for International Economics, 2003), 86–87.
87 For more details on the koseki system, see Japan Children's Rights Network website,
http://www.crnjapan.com/references/en/koseki.html, accessed 31 March 2009.
88 Toshiyuki Tamura, “The Status and Role of Ethnic Koreans in the Japanese Economy” in C.
Bergsten and Inbom Choi, editors, The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy, (Washington, D.C.:
Institute for International Economics, 2003), 88.