Join the Rescue Fund on Wednesday, September 3rd, for a fun night of trivia and Q&A with North Korean escapee and activist Yeon Mi Park. Hope to see everyone there!
NKHR is hosting an art exhibit to highlight the struggles of Kkotjebi, or North Korea's homeless youth. It will be held from the 6th to the 11th of August. All proceeds will go the Rescue Fund, to help us reach our goal of raising 15 million won in 2014!
On Sunday 8th June, the NKHR Rescue Fund held a unique event at Haichi Hall, Myeong-dong. At this event, guests were treated to an exclusive screening of the documentary “Dear Pyongyang”. Directed by Yang Yong-hi, this documentary follows her own family and the struggles they face after her three brothers are ‘repatriated’ back to North Korea.
Her family are members of Chongyron, a pro-North Korea organization of ethnic Koreans living in Japan. Yang’s father, an ardent communist and one of the founding members of Chongyron, sent his three young sons ‘back’ to North Korea during a repatriation campaign that saw thousands of ethnic Koreans and some of their Japanese families ‘return’ to the Fatherland. As the youngest and the only girl, Yang remained in Japan.
The documentary outlined the problems the family faced upon their separation. As North Korea slid further into economic decline, the film depicts how her three brothers became increasingly dependent upon care packages sent by Yang’s parents. It also shows conversations with her father in the home and on several visits to Pyongyang, during which he discusses his ideological faith and regrets over his decision to break up the family. The footage shot inside of North Korea is also particularly eye opening.
Following the movie screening our guest speaker, Suryeon Lee, led an emotional but humorous Q&A. Her family were also members of Chongryon in Japan and returned to North Korea during the ‘homecoming’ movement in the years following the Korean War. Suryeon was born in North Korea and was raised alongside her family’s increasing regrets. She finally managed to escape to South Korea with her mother in 2006. Unfortunately, her father was captured and tortured for their escape and later died of his injuries. Her first-hand perspective and unique experiences made for a very interesting discussion, with many audience members offering thought-provoking questions.
Thanks to a wide turnout and generous contributions, this event raised ₩470,000! These donations bring us even closer to achieving this year’s goal of raising $15,000 to save 6 North Korean refugees and help them pass safely into South Korea.
Please keep up to date with the NKHR Rescue Fund website and facebook page to find out about our upcoming events. For summer 2014, we have some very exciting events planned and we look forward to seeing you all there!
By Jessica Cath -- a Rescue Fund volunteer
On Saturday, April 12th, the NKHR Rescue Fund held its most recent event. The team partnered with the Hallyuwood Film Club to screen the documentary ‘Camp 14: Total Control Zone’ and host a Q&A with a survivor of the North Korean regime, Sungju Lee. The event was attended by an overwhelming number of people from many different countries and all walks of life. People from South Korea, the United States, Finland and the United Kingdom, including soldiers, students and tourists, contributed generously and helped us to raise more than ₩1,000,000 or over USD 1000. These donations bring us another step closer to achieving this year’s goal of raising 15 million won (USD 15,000) to save 6 North Korean refugees.
The event began with the screening of ‘CAMP 14: Total Control Zone’ (2012). Directed by Marc Wiese, this documentary tells the shocking but very moving story of a North Korean political camp prisoner’s fight for his freedom. Through animations the film recreated the harsh reality of camp life. The animations were accompanied by excerpts from interviews with a former prisoner and two former camp soldiers.
Following the documentary, North Korean defector Sungju Lee led a fascinating Q&A session. He briefly ran through his life story, revealing that he had recently graduated from Sogang University, Seoul, but grew up in Pyongyang. In Pyongyang he had lived an affluent life amongst North Korea’s privileged few, until his family was ousted from the capital to live a life of separation and starvation. He then spent four years as a kkotjebi (street child) before being saved by his grandfather and arriving in South Korea, after his father (who had defected a few years earlier) sent a broker for him.
His tale is an interesting one. He did not live in a political prison camp like the defector in the documentary, but experienced both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of life in North Korea. Thus, the differences between the documentary and his story stimulated many fascinating questions from those who attended, including questions about life in Pyongyang compared to Seoul, the extent of his knowledge of the camp system when he lived in Pyongyang, and about the rise of a market economy and his thoughts for unification in the future. As his academic studies focus on international relations and diplomacy (principally on diplomacy surrounding the reunification of Korea), his answer to the question about unification was particularly interesting.
The NKHR Rescue Fund will be holding similar events in the coming months. Please keep up-to-date with our Facebook page for more information. We look forward to seeing you at our next event!
By Eum Young Kyung -- a Rescue Fund volunteer
The NKHR Rescue Fund team held its first event “A Conversation with Eunju Kim, a Former North Korean Refugee” on February 20, 2014. The event was held at Bitter Sweet Sound café and bar in Hongdae from 8 to 10 p.m., and we took our successful first step towards achieving the goal of raising USD 15,000 for the whole year by raising approximately USD 300. We initially aimed at gathering about 30 people but about 40 people from a number of different countries – the United States, Germany, Taiwan and Singapore – attended the event. The event began with the audience’s big round of applause for Eunju, as there was an announcement that she graduated from Sogang University with BA in Chinese language and literature just one day before the event. Eunju shared experiences of her life back in North Korea, including her personal story of starving for five days and writing a letter to her mom when she was not around searching for food, as Eunju felt that she was really going to die from starvation. She also talked about the story of her father who died of starvation, as well as how her father’s friend died of malnutrition shortly after taking one of the foods on her father’s funeral table secretly to fill his empty stomach.
The second part of Eunju's talk was about how she arrived in South Korea. She concluded her speech by saying that North Korean refugees need moral rather than financial support in order for them to successfully adjust to their new life in South Korea. Her explanation about why North Koreans are not subverting the regime and how they are incapacitated from revolting against the government helped the audience gain a fresh perspective about human rights situation in North Korea. There was a Q&A session afterwards, followed by live music performance, and the audience also had a chance to have a casual chat and exchange their views on North Korean human right issues.
At our second fundraising event we are showing a documentary film “Kimjongilia.” Afterward, there will be a short talk by a former North Korean refugee followed by a Q&A session. This event will serve as a valuable opportunity for you to get your questions about North Korean human rights answered, so please feel free to join. It will take place on March 15, from 2 to 4 p.m., at Haechi Hall, Myeongdong. We look forward to seeing all of you!
Happy New Year! Here in Seoul, we celebrated the lunar new year (known in Korea as 설날) and rung in the Year of the Horse just last weekend. It was a time to enjoy our friends and families, reflect on what we accomplished last year, and set goals for the future. Our hearts were also with those in North Korea or on the run in China who were unable to share in one of the most important holidays in South Korea.
Now that the new year has officially begun, the NKHR Rescue Fund is back and ready for action! We recruited a bunch of passionate, smart, and fun new team members, and they're ready to hit the ground running. Our goal this year is to raise 15,000 USD (15 million Won) to rescue six refugees. Because of increasingly difficult circumstances in China, the cost of rescuing one North Korean refugee has risen to about 2,500 USD.
The Rescue Fund team is working hard to bring you its first event of 2014, and we're also exploring ways to increase our online presence. We'll be sure to update you on the blog and our facebook page.
In the meantime, please continue to support us by spreading the word about NKHR and the North Korean human rights crisis to your friends and families. As always, we accept donations through this website, and 100% of your donation will go directly toward rescuing refugees. Together, we know we can rescue at least 6 refugees this year! Every little bit counts.
Many thanks for your continued support, and stay tuned!
Almost one year ago a group of foreigners, South Koreans, students, teachers and activists formed the NKHR Refugee Rescue Team with the goal of raising $12,000 to aid North Korean refugees. In order to reach out into the community we organized frequent events and started an awareness campaign about the human rights atrocities happening in North Korea, in addition to the dangers that refugees face even after defection. Without the support and encouragement that we received from the local and foreigner communities, the NKHR Rescue Team could not have reached its fundraising goal for 2013, and would also not have been able to answer an urgent call from several vulnerable refugees who required immediate assistance to safely reach South Korea. Five North Korean refugees have already been rescued using the donations collected by the dedicated efforts of volunteers.
As a member of the NKHR Rescue Team since its nascent period, I have been privileged to work with a committed and enthusiastic group of people from diverse backgrounds. Our very different set of experiences and expectations acted as both an asset and a challenge at the very early stages of the team. However, from our differences, we were able to come together and create a successful human rights campaign that has left a palpable impact in our local communities, and has also saved the lives of several North Korean refugees. Without the efforts of various volunteers, interns, staff and donors, the NKHR Rescue Team would never have built the foundation necessary to officially launch in March.
Utilizing our personal networks and social media, we began organizing our first fundraiser events in April, and started disseminating information about the abysmal human rights situation in North Korea. I remember being very nervous at our first event because I was afraid that nobody would come or be interested in supporting the campaign. However, my worries were unnecessary, because we had a full-house of attentive and responsive audience members who all cared about the desperate plight of North Koreans. Moreover, every subsequent event was also packed, and I was glad to see that so many people had a strong interest in human rights and wanted to help North Korean refugees. The most difficult aspect of organizing each fundraiser was usually the beginning, when we all had to make sure that everything was working and set up properly. People tended to arrive very early, so we sometimes felt a bit rushed when it came to preparing for an event. However, it was wonderful to see so many repeat attendees who were passionate about the cause. I often saw the same individuals at different events on numerous occasions, and the support that both the local and foreign guests gave us provided the motivation we needed to keep organizing fundraisers in order to reach out to even more people.
One reason why the events organized by the NKHR Rescue Team were so successful was because we always had a North Korean re-settler speak about their experiences from a firsthand perspective. This allowed the audience an opportunity to not only hear the testimony of a defector, but also ask them direct questions about their lives in North Korea and what happened to them after they escaped. I think that hearing about the abhorrent human rights violations committed in North Korea through the voice of someone who has lived through the experience is a rare opportunity that is both thought-provoking and compelling because guests could meet a survivor who has lived through the kind of horrors that most people have only read about. Each defector who shared their testimony had a heartbreaking and poignant message for the audience and revealed that many North Koreans still need help after defection because they must endure numerous dangers while hiding out in transit countries.
Although all of the speakers had an important story to tell, the most meaningful event for me was when a young North Korean woman named Eunju Kim spoke about her experiences after defecting, and the many challenges that she had to bear while living in China, in addition to the hellish ordeal of being repatriated. Her survival story left me with a deep impression because the most vulnerable victims of human rights violations are women and children. Listening to the testimonies of various defectors, while they described their memories of prison camps, starvation, human trafficking, torture and death, my dedication and commitment to raising awareness about the dire situation was reinforced by the need to take concrete action. Their bravery strengthened my resolve to aid refugees trapped in countries of transit, so they no longer have to survive in dangerous and unsafe conditions.
Looking back, it has been a pleasure to work with other devoted and inspiring people as we endeavored to increase awareness of North Korean human rights. I am proud of the NKHR Refugee Rescue Team for meeting its fundraiser goal of $12,000 and raising enough funds to rescue five North Korean refugees and transport them to safety in South Korea. With the groundwork already completed by the initial team, I believe that future volunteers will continue to spread the word about the horrible state of human rights in North Korea and the critical need for more direct involvement from the international community. I am thankful for the opportunity to meet and speak with so many spirited North Korean survivors who recognize the necessity of drawing more attention to this issue and had the courage to share their story with the world. I am also grateful for the interest and enthusiasm of the local and foreign communities, in and around Seoul, because without public support NKHR would not have been able to save the refugees that have been rescued so far. I hope that the NKHR Refugee Rescue Team will continue to uphold the belief that human rights are universal, and the deplorable violations perpetrated in North Korea, in addition to the suffering of defectors waiting in transit countries, must come to an end. Ultimately, I believe that the NKHR human rights campaign has made a meaningful impact in 2013, and will continue to do great work in the years ahead.
We cannot thank everyone enough for their support. The money raised by the NKHR Rescue Fund has been used to bring five North Korean refugees to safety! Although we had hoped that the money raised would rescue six refugees, we faced increased costs due to difficult circumstances and arrests in China.
We want to take a moment to briefly share the refugees’ stories with you. Safety concerns prevent us from divulging any identifying information about refugees, including photos or their real names.
Three young siblings
We received an urgent request from a father seeking help for his three young children, ages 4, 7, and 9. The father, his wife, and their three children were hiding in China, but the young parents were fearful that they would soon be caught and desperately wanted their children to be rescued.
Back in North Korea, the father had worked in the logging industry, but the family had no money. They could not afford to send the children to school. The children were constantly hungry, and faced with their children’s malnourishment, the parents believed they would not survive another winter. They decided that the children’s only chances for survival were to escape North Korea, even at the risk of being caught or dying while on the run.
After crossing the border, the family was given shelter in China. But believing it would only be a matter of time before they were caught by local police, the parents contacted NKHR with a desperate plea that their children be saved. Thanks to you, the children are now safe and will arrive in South Korea shortly. NKHR was also able to help their parents come with them by raising money from private donors.
A father and his 14-year-old daughter
A few months ago, Min-su, currently a university student in Seoul, came to NKHR’s office asking for help saving his family. He had reached South Korea on his own some years earlier and had been saving money to rescue his family in North Korea ever since. But the situation had turned urgent. His mother was taken into detention in North Korea, and Min-su was worried that his fourteen-year-old sister and extremely ill father would soon be detained as well.
Thanks to the Rescue Fund, Min-su’s father and sister were able to escape North Korea, travel safely along the “underground railroad” and reunite with Min-su in South Korea. Min-su has not given up hope of bringing his mother to South Korea too.
These rescues would not have been possible without the generous support of our donors and volunteers. On behalf of the five refugees, we sincerely thank you.
But remember, our work is not done yet—there are still countless others who need help. Even though our 2013 Rescue Fund goal has been met, NKHR continues to receive rescue requests, and any contribution that you can make goes directly to helping us respond to those requests.
Thank you for your support!
With your help, we exceeded our goal and raised 1,500,000 WON! All of that money will go directly to rescuing six North Korean refugees. NKHR expresses our deepest gratitude to our committed volunteers and generous donors.
Below is a list of our individual donors. Thank you!
We are a group of volunteers fundraising for NKHR (Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights) to rescue