Over the past few months, NKinUSA has continued its core mission of helping refugees from North Korea escape through China to safety in a third country. The following accounts are of refugees who recently obtained freedom in Thailand with the help of NKinUSA’s network of connections. The names have been changed for the safety of the refugees and their families.
HM is a 24 year old woman whose mother, still living in North Korea, suffers from various medical ailments. HM’s father entered China to try to earn money to pay for his wife’s medicine but was caught by the North Korean authorities, sentenced to prison, and later died of weakness. HM’s younger brother argued against their father’s unjust death but was beaten by security personnel and died himself of a cerebral concussion within a few days. At that point, HM decided to go to China, knowing she would be trafficked, in order to help her mother and teenage sibling survive. The people who bought HM in China agreed to send 10% of what she was purchased for to her family in North Korea, but HM doesn’t believe they actually sent it. While in China HM had an unwanted pregnancy but was nevertheless anguished after she suffered a miscarriage over extreme stress about her living conditions and concern for her mother. Eventually, NKinUSA was able to help rescue HM and bring her to Thailand. NKinUSA was also able to purchase medication for HM’s mother and deliver it to her in North Korea.
NKinUSA also helped rescue a young girl, “Child A”. This girl came to China when she was little with her mother, who was subsequently sold to an abusive Chinese man. The man beat the mother whenever he got drunk and three years ago the mother ran away from home after fighting with the stepfather. We believe the mother was picked up by Chinese police soon after leaving the house, was repatriated to North Korea, and is currently in a North Korean prison.
Ms. Eunhee Choi went to China with her newborn daughter “Child B” after her husband died after falling off a train. Eunhee initially believed she would fare better anywhere other than in North Korea but she soon found herself drugged and tricked by Chinese brokers who regarded her as little more than a vehicle with which to generate revenue. She was sent to a pigsty where, with her young daughter on her back, she fed and took care of over fifty pigs and cleaned the filthy area. Working all day, sexually and physically abused at night, despondent, she decided to take her own life by hanging. But as she was about to do so her daughter intuitively understood what was happening and begged her to stop, calling her “Mom” for the first time. Eunhee reflects: “I was devastated at coming to a realization that I was to survive in this cruel world in which the moment that my daughter said her first word was the moment she was desperately deterring me from committing suicide.” Fortunately, we are happy to report, NKinUSA was able to help both Eunhee and her child and they both arrived safely in Thailand recently.
Two more refugees whom NKinUSA successfully helped reach Thailand recently are Mr. Chul Kang, 19, and Mr. Jogook Park, 18, both fugitive deserters from the North Korean military. Chul Kang returned home after less than a year in the military to find strangers living in his house and learn that both his parents had died while he was away. Realizing that continuing military service for his country no longer held meaning for him, he bowed deeply toward the mountain where his mother was buried, then headed to the Tumen River to defect to China. At the river he was arrested by a soldier guarding the border, Jogook Park, who detained Kang while waiting for his chief officer to return from a drinking party. During that time Park prevented Kang from committing suicide by taking lye. When Park tried to release Kang, Kang persuaded Park to defect with him and, after burying their weapons and uniforms in the ground, crossed the Tumen River together into China. After hiding in China for a few months they were able to contact NKinUSA who helped them escape to Thailand.
On average it costs around $3,000 to guide a North Korean refugee to safety, sometimes more. NKinUSA remains committed to doing what we can to help North Korean refugees complete the treacherous journey through Asia to safety and freedom; assisting those refugees already in the United States resettle and build new lives; and spreading the word about the ongoing human rights tragedy in North Korea. We still need help from you, our friends and supporters, to make that happen, however. All contributions, large and small, are welcome and very much appreciated and will continue to go to helping North Korean refugees.
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