Friday, August 14, 2009


Here's a commentary I wrote in this month's issue of Sojourners magazine about the nonprofit, Liberty in North Korea. Sure Laura Ling and Euna Lee are free, but what about the millions of folks left behind, the North Koreans suffering from the worst human rights violations imaginable? My heart hurts for them. They are often ignored or forgotten. But here's one group that refuses to forget.
Begun with just five students, today the organization has around 100 chapters in the U.S. and more than 10 chapters elsewhere in the world. “The focus at the time was predominantly on policy,” says Wheeler. “Students realized that there wasn’t really anyone who was focusing on the crisis, so these students took it upon themselves to spread the word, and that’s what keeps us alive today.” Through protests, campus rallies, and calls to congressional leaders for passage of a reauthorization act for North Korean refugees, LiNK—composed largely of second-generation Asian Americans—has proved to be an effective student movement, bringing attention to the forgotten millions suffering in North Korea.

That beginning year also saw LiNK’s first mission to help North Korean refugees get away from the Chinese border and into shelters throughout Southeast Asia and the United States. LiNK’s founder, Adrian Hong, and five other members travelled to the North Korean/Chinese border and led three unaccompanied minors out of China. Today, the young men are happily resettled in the U.S., and the organization continues to house North Korean refugees in undisclosed shelters throughout China and Southeast Asia (read the rest here).

I had the opportunity to interview one of the resettled minors, Joseph Kim. He's now working for LiNK in Torrance, Calif., sharing his testimony at their events and lobbying for more stringent regulations on the treatment of North Korean refugees in China. Here's just a few lines from his interview.

You were able to escape from North Korea to China. Share with me the story of your escape from North Korea.

It was very dangerous and I was scared. But I crossed the river. It was winter time so I walked on the ice, so that's how I crossed the river, but it was really difficult because there were many soldiers, like river guards. Their job was to catch persons who are trying to escape across the river. So it was very hard, but I can say it was good timing and I got good luck.

Yeah, definitely. You mentioned so your father passed away from starvation and your mother and sister are missing, you don't know what has happened to them. Have you been trying to find them at all?

Yes I was, but as you know China's big and without address, you cannot -- it's very hard to find [people]. But I'm still hoping that one day I can meet them and I'm still trying. (hear or read the rest of the interview)
Most conversations I have with folks about North Korea have to do with how crazy Kim Jong Il is or what will happen if nuclear war breaks out. Rarely are folks like Joseph mentioned.

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