By Sohee Khim, NKHR Volunteer and Intern
On Thursday, November 6, the NKHR Rescue Fund team held a hunger banquet to raise awareness about hunger, food insecurity and social inequality in North Korea. The event was hosted at Neungla Bapsang (능라밥상) in Jongno, a restaurant owned by a North Korean defector that serves North Korean cuisine. Neungla Bapsang employs other North Korean defectors and regularly donates a part of its profits to fund scholarships that help other defectors.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of the 3 songbun (social classes) of North Korean society with a false identity—hostile, wavering or core. The dinner they received corresponded to their class. The hostile class only received two potato dumplings each, the wavering a bowl of bibimbap, and the core a bowl of meat soup with rice. Guests were able to discuss their characters’ stories and observe their differences over dinner; people in the hostile class were also given NKHR Food Aid comprised of Choco Pies, modeled after the United Nations food aid that has been distributed in North Korea for the past few decades. Participants were assigned seats at the same table as others who were of different classes as they so that they could experience firsthand how the wide gaps in social status affects daily life in North Korea. Participants were visibly shocked that the social inequality produces such vast inequalities in the type of food people in North Korea can access; however, the shock gave way to camaraderie as unlike in North Korea, many participants of the core and wavering classes readily and willingly shared their meals with those in the hostile class.
After dinner, we invited Kim Eun Jeong (김은정), a young woman who escaped North Korea at the age of 15, to speak to the group. Ms. Kim also took questions from guests, conducted a Q&A session where people were able to learn more about the food shortages in North Korea. It was evident that many people were shocked and moved as she discussed the hardships she had faced and described the mass suffering she had observed during her childhood in North Korea.
During the event, we also held a raffle with a variety of prizes, all of which were generously donated by the NKHR office and businesses in Seoul.
Thanks to the generous donations of the guests, the NKHR Rescue Fund raised over 700,000 Korean won (roughly USD 700) at the Hunger Banquet. We would also like to thank Neungla Bapsang for hosting and accommodating us, as well as Plant Bakery, Café San Damiano, Magpie Brewery and The Beastro for their generous contributions to the raffle.
We are a group of volunteers fundraising for NKHR (Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights) to rescue