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Japanese Human Rights Advocates Pressure North Korea


North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will celebrate his birthday tomorrow. Human rights advocates in Japan are using that anniversary to step up pressure on the isolated country. They are calling on North Korean citizens to overthrow their government and asking Japan to help fund the effort.

Song Yun Bok says human rights groups have been encouraging North Korean citizens to overthrow their government for years.

Song, with the non-profit group "No Fence" in Japan, says he has helped South Korean groups send radios into North Korea to educate citizens about democracy. They have also smuggled in South Korean dramas and American movies.

Song says they have many ways to disseminate information into North Korea now, but they do not have enough money to carry out the operations.

South Korean human rights groups, VOA and a few other international news organizations broadcast to North Korea daily with news of what is happening in that country and around the world.

At a forum Monday in Tokyo on North Korea, Song and fellow activist Syojun Sunagawa said communication with the country's citizens is key to overthrowing the government led by Kim Jong Il.

Sunagawa says they are asking the Japanese government to help pay for their operations.

"The way for Japan to contribute to the international community that includes East Asia is to take the initiative and encourage neighboring countries to share the cost and propose an international framework for sharing the cost of North Korea democratization," he said.

The call for Japan to act comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong Il gets ready to celebrate his 68th birthday on Tuesday.

The North Koreans have said they are open to talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs but have not agreed to return to six-party talks with the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and South Korea.

Negotiations with those countries have been stalled for a year, since Pyongyang withdrew from the discussions. Shortly after that, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test, drawing tough sanctions from the United Nations.

Human rights activist Ken Kato says it is not enough to wait for talks to start. Kato says Mr. Kim has nearly $4 billion of his own money hidden in a Luxembourg bank. He wants that government to freeze the secret account.

"Somewhere in the world there are bankers who are making large sums of money by conceding to managing Kim Jong Il's secret funds," said Kato. "At the same time almost nine million people in North Korea are suffering from food shortages according to the U.N."

Kato says the Luxembourg government has yet to act on his request. He asks the international community to pressure it to do so because without the money, Kim Jong Il will have no choice but to respect human rights, give up nuclear weapons, and beg the international community for money. Kato says Kim needs the funds to buy the loyalty of high-ranking officials.

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