By Erin Crocker, Education Chair of Liberty in North Korea at Union University
A lot of the times I catch myself staring into the autumn sky, breathing in the crisp air and thinking about how simple my life is. Then I wonder about the people that I come into contact with and how simple their life is. If we are all simple people living simple lives, what makes all of this so extraordinary? What creates that spark to keep moving forward and growing from individuals into a unified race?
It’s people like Joseph Kim and his story that challenges the normal perspective and inspires us to do what we think is the impossible. At 16 years old, Joseph crossed the most guarded border, escaped from the most oppressed nation and lost all contact with his family. Today, he is a North Korean refugee that travels the world sharing his story. A boy who was starving on the streets and begging for food is now a man living life liberated from a dictating regime.
Liberty in North Korea is a nonprofit organization based out of California and Seoul, South Korea. The organization has created a plethora of opportunities for the refugees and those who are still in the country. They meet people at the border so that the vulnerable refugees are not taken advantage of in human trafficking rings or sold as brides.
Once they are in the safety of South Korea, there are programs that re-educate these refugees and settle them into a new life. The LiNK workers try to make sure these refugees can live a better life, not forget what they have seen, but share what they have seen. It is sad how little people around the world know about what is going on in North Korea. It is a modern day version of the Holocaust, except that it is almost a secret to the majority of the world. The good news is that LiNK has rescued 400 refugees and the people inside the country are becoming more aware of the outside world. Influence is a gateway for knowledge. Knowledge can be the spark to create a wildfire of defiance.
As important as the journey from North Korea into a safety is, I want to hit on some facts that I feel are more important to think about:
- The leader of North Korea is Kim Jong Un. He is the son of Kim Jong Il and grandson of Kim Il Sung. The nation has been under the power of the Kim family for 63 years.
- North Korea is a totalitarian government. This means that every aspect of life is influenced by the government.
- No one can come in or leave the country.
- It is illegal for North Korean refugees to cross into China. China’s policy requires North Korean refugees to be sent back to the country.
- There is a three-generation punishment. This means if a crime is committed by one member of a family, then up to three generations of that person can be sent to a prison camp.
- The North Korean people are mostly cut off from all life outside of the country. The government wants as much control over the people and for them to feel isolated in their oppression.
- Families have been separated for over six decades. The last reunion occurred in October and only 100 families were able to see their loved ones for 10 hours.
- The North Korean people are suffering from a famine and damage from the latest Typhoon. The 1993-2000 famine killed millions of North Koreans, and we do not want to see a repeat.
- North Korean women are sold as brides to Chinese men since the One Child Policy in China created such a huge gender ratio.
- The DMZ is two-mile wide border that is the most heavily guarded border in the entire world. North Korean soldiers have been given the order to shoot anyone on the spot who tries to escape.
I hope this handful of facts were helpful and you learned something new. It is incredibly important to be educated and up-to-date on the most current news. If not, then we give into perceptions such as The Interview or random YouTube clips we might see. That is what we want to do at Union. We want to share our passion for the North Korean people with the rest of the student body, faculty, and staff. We want to shift the focus away from the politics and towards the people. There is a movement rising in North Korea. Are you ready to move, Union?
Please remember that these refugees are people just like you and me. Pray for a change in the government, hope for the people and awareness in the U.S.