Today we want to update you about the successful rescue of three North Korean refugees, our first for 2018, whom we recently learned arrived safely to freedom in Thailand.
Ms. Kang Keumok (46) (all names are aliases) was originally arrested and spent two years in a North Korean prison after being found in possession of fliers originating from South Korea. After her release Ms. Kang went to see her daughter but could not find her. Thinking she might be in China she crossed the Tumen River in search of her but instead fell victim to human traffickers herself and was sold to a disabled man’s household. Eventually she escaped and was able to contact NKinUSA, who connected her with people who could lead her to safety.
Ms. Choi Myunghee’s (38) father and uncle were sent to a political prison camp while her mother committed suicide, leaving her, as the eldest child, to take care of her two younger sisters by herself. Exiled to the remote countryside, she worked as a farmer. When a major flood hit the village during the monsoon season her farming work suffered. But as the descendants of a political prisoner, the sisters were barred from receiving food rations. As a result, one sister died of hunger while the other contracted tuberculosis. Ms. Choi crossed into China in search of medication to help her remaining sister combat her tuberculosis but soon fell victim to human trafficking, was sold to an impoverished household, and eventually delivered a child. Thinking that her baby would survive even in a very poor family but her sister was still in danger of dying, she escaped the household and turned herself in to North Korean authorities. She was returned to North Korea and spent a year in prison before being released. As soon as she got out she went in search of her sister, without success. Despondent, she attempted suicide. Learning of Ms. Choi’s attempt on her own life, the authorities arrested her again on the basis that no one living under the benevolent care of the General should ever contemplate suicide. At some point she was able to escape prison, return to China, and meet up with a broker who helped her hide until she could contact NKinUSA.
Ms. Hahm Ryunok (46) escaped to China for the first time when she was 26 after her parents died of hunger during the Great Famine. She stayed in China for a decade, during which time she was sold to a Chinese man and bore two children with him. After ten years in China, she was deported to North Korea and incarcerated in a North Korean prison for four years. In prison Ms. Hahm was one of only six survivors of a tuberculosis and typhoid fever outbreak that killed over 150 fellow prisoners. After her release she learned that two of her siblings had been publicly executed in a public market for having eaten a meal with South Koreans while in China, and a third sibling died after not receiving treatment for frostbite infections. Realizing the hopelessness of her situation in North Korea, she escaped back to China and eventually reunited with her Chinese husband and two children. Now, NKinUSA has helped Ms. Hahm reach safety in Thailand. However it was necessary to leave her two children, now ages 10 and 14, and her husband, who has a back injury from a previous accident, back in China. Ms. Hahm’s dream, after settling in South Korea, is to bring her children to Korea to receive a decent education, and her husband to have the back surgery that he needs.
We’re happy that Ms. Kang, Ms. Choi, and Ms. Hahm have made it to safety in Thailand and we wish the best for them as they begin new chapters in their lives. And once again we’re especially grateful to you for your support in helping make that happen. Meanwhile, we continue to be contacted by North Korean refugees hiding in China who still ask for our help. On average it costs around $3,000 to rescue one refugee. Please consider contributing to help us continue this important mission. All contributions, large or small, are greatly appreciated.
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