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Thanks to your generous donations to the Rescue Fund, nine refugees were able to safely reach a South Korean embassy in Thailand or Laos in the summer of 2015. Here are their stories.
Chul-min, his wife, and their two children
Born and raised in a mining city in the northernmost region of North Korea, Chul-min worked as a bus driver near the Chinese border. His mother and elder brother had escaped to China, and his wife had run away with another man, leaving him with two children to raise on his own. Witnessing a huge inflow of Chinese commercialism and the consequent waves of change, Chul-min began to dream of living in a free world. He began secretly looking into methods and routes of crossing the border. After about a year of planning, and newly remarried, he and his family finally crossed the river to reach China. With no money, Chul-min and his family were forced to sleep under discarded vinyl in the biting cold until he fortunately come into contact with NKHR’s trusted guide.
At the age of ten, shortly after her parents died, Mi-hyang was sexually trafficked into China. The man to whom she was sold seemed kind at first, but when money became tight, he began to beat her and their child when he was drunk. One night he even pulled a knife on her. Fearing for her life, she finally escaped the house in hopes of coming to South Korea.
Kyung-shim and her two daughters
Kyung-shim was born in Hoeryong, North Korea, in the 1990s. Both of her parents died during the famine. Having escaped North Korea by crossing the Chinese border, at first Kyung-shim’s poor health prevented her from being sold as a “bride.” Instead, she was quickly trafficked as a laborer and sold to a farm. However, after regaining her health, 23-year-old Kyung-shim was then sold to a 45-year-old Chinese man. She gave birth to a son and a daughter, but could not even afford to take them to a doctor when they were sick. After four years, she ran away from her husband and found a job at a small restaurant. She soon got remarried to a 47-year old man and lived with him in a remote and impoverished area in the country, giving birth to two more children. However, her second husband was a heavy drinker and would often beat them. She ran away with her children, but doubted that the three of them would be able to survive.
Saved from the Sex Trade
Seventeen-year-old Ok was raised by her aunt after she lost her parents in North Korea. Faced with financial hardship, Ok was tricked into believing she could earn money in China. She accepted a stranger’s offer to help her cross the border. But when she arrived in China, she soon realized that she was to be sold by sex traffickers. She was able to escape before being sold.
While these refugees have successfully reached South Korea, many more are still awaiting their opportunity for a new, safe start. Please help us with our goal of rescuing 6 refugees in 2016: donate here.
Thanks to the generous support of donors, NKHR Rescue Fund was able to rescue three North Korean refugees in March 2015. Their stories are below. Thank you to everyone who helped rescue these women.
Pong Hee and her 14-year-old daughter
In 2012, Pong Hee left North Korea believing that China would offer a better life. She had been struggling to survive in North Korea, recently separated from her abusive husband, and unable to find work because she had a young daughter. While wandering the streets for food one day, Pong Hee was persuaded by a stranger that life in China would be more prosperous and that she wouldn’t have to beg for food. She accepted the stranger’s offer to help her and her daughter escape.
Pong Hee soon realized that she had been deceived. When she reached China, she was handed over to sex traffickers who tried to take her daughter away. It would be more difficult to sell her with a daughter. Pong Hee was beaten when she begged them to let her keep her daughter, but the pair was ultimately allowed to remain together. They were sold to a farmer in rural China.
Several other North Korean women who had been sold also lived in Pong Hee’s village. When Pong Hee watched Chinese authorities arrest one of them, orphaning the young mother’s child, she realized that she needed to come to South Korea to guarantee her and her own child’s safety. She reached out to NKHR for help, and with your donations, NKHR was able to bring Pong Hee and her daughter to safety. She arrived in Thailand about a week ago.
Twenty-five year old Mi Hwa
Twenty-five year old Mi Hwa was sold into sex trafficking in China by the North Korean police officer who arrested her for stealing food from a farmer. She was only 20 years old.
Young Mi Hwa was physically abused by the sex trafficker when she arrived in China, as well as by the Chinese man to whom she was sold. Mi Hwa gave birth to a daughter with her Chinese husband, but left her behind when she ran away without any money or possessions. Traumatized by guilt for leaving her daughter and the memories of physical abuse, Mi Hwa became mute.
Mi Hwa’s fragile state put her at high risk of being caught by Chinese authorities. NKHR was contacted to help her reach South Korea safely. Thanks to your generous donations, Mi Hwa also reached Thailand safely about a week ago.
Young mothers who are caught by Chinese authorities frequently find themselves forced to abandon their young children. NKHR tries to ensure that mothers and their children arrive in South Korea safely together, where they can begin their new lives of freedom and hope.
In November 2014, the generous donations to the Rescue Fund rescued young Kim Song Yi (named changed to ensure her safety). This is her story.
Twenty-One and On the Run
Two winters ago, Kim Song Yi was close to despair. At the young age of twenty-one, an age at which most young South Korean women fret over exams and blind dates, Song Yi was fleeing for her life in China. She was completely alone, with no knowledge of whether her parents were still alive and no prospect of ever seeing them again.
Song Yi was born in North Korea to an ethnic Chinese father working in North Korea as a journalist and a North Korean mother. She attended vocational school for singing in Sariwon City, North Korea. While on a business trip to China, her father decided that he needed to take his family out of North Korea so that they could live a freer life. However, he soon realized that it would be impossible to take them to China legally. After struggling with this realization for months, he finally decided to smuggle them out of North Korea, starting with Song Yi. But soon after Song Yi reached China, she was jolted by terrible news when she tuned into the radio: her father, who had been planning to leave North Korea shortly after she left, had been captured for the alleged crime of introducing dozens of North Koreans to a South Korean missionary. She then discovered that both Chinese and North Korean security officials were looking for her as well.
Song Yi fled for her life. For months she lived in fear of being caught and sent back to North Korea, where she would face punishment, perhaps even being sent to a prison camp. She was too afraid to eat or sleep, and she could not stop crying over the thought of never seeing her mother and father again. Exhausted from living in hiding for so many months, Song Yi reached out to NKHR for assistance reaching South Korea. It was during this difficult time that she resolved to try to save her father if she made it to South Korea.
With the generous donations to the Rescue Fund, NKHR was able to get Song Yi safely out of China. She arrived safely in Thailand after a long and tumultuous journey. Song Yi’s rescue would not have been possible without the support of our donors.
But the Rescue Fund's work is not done yet—there are still countless others who need help. Young men and women like Song Yi are frequently separated from their families while on the run in China. They find themselves scared and alone, with nowhere to turn for help and fearful of being caught by Chinese or North Korean authorities. That is why the Rescue Fund is so important.
Please consider making a contribution to help the Rescue Fund rescue as many young North Korean as possible. Donate here.
Thanks to the generous support of the Citizens Alliance for North Korean Human Rights (NKHR) Rescue Fund, we are halfway to our 2014 fundraising goal and recently rescued four North Korean refugees!
We would like take a moment to share their stories with you. Safety concerns prevent us from divulging any identifying information about refugees, including photos or their real names.
Sunbok and her two daughters
Sunbok was born and raised in the North Hamgyong Province of North Korea. Her husband was born in Pyongyang, but was purged with his family when he was young. Since then, he worked hard in hopes of one day returning to Pyongyang with Sunbok and their two daughters. But that day never came. In May 2013, Sunbok’s husband was arrested by North Korean police and likely executed. Sunbok was never told what her husband had done wrong.
In North Korea, there is a guilt-by-association system which allows for punishment of the family members of the accused. Fearing for their lives, Sunbok decided that she and her daughters needed to escape North Korea. Because of the nature of her husband’s disappearance, Sunbok felt it was the only way they could survive. She instructed her eldest daughter Eunju to escape first and meet Sunbok at their relatives’ home in China.
Shortly after Eunju left, Sunbok and her 18-year-old daughter, Eunhwa, crossed the heavily guarded border of North Korea and China, the Tumen River. The day before their escape, Sunbok and Eunhwa hid in the mountains waiting for an opportune moment. At 3:00 a.m., when it began raining, Sunbok firmly took Eunhwa’s hand and ran across the shallow river.
Fortunately, Sunbok and Eunhwa safely reached their relatives’ home in China. Eunju, however, was not there. Since leaving her mother and sister in North Korea, Eunju had not been heard from.
Because Sunbok and Eunhwa arrived in China with little money, they had no safe way to reach South Korea on their own. Being female, they were at high risk of being sexually trafficked. Eunju’s disappearance also put them at increased risk of being caught and repatriated by Chinese authorities. But with your generous donations, NKHR was able to bring Sunbok and Eunhwa to South Korea quickly and safely. They continue to remain hopeful that they will find Eunju and that she will soon join them.
Hyang and her young son
Until she was 26 years old, Hyang worked for a mine in the Ryanggang Province of North Korea. Her father had been purged from Pyongyang, but in hopes of one day returning to the capital, he worked hard and attended every event hosted by the government. Despite his efforts, Hyang’s father was sentenced to three years in a prison camp for being deemed disloyal to the country. He passed away during his first year due to hard labor.
After her father’s imprisonment, Hyang’s mother began to suffer from chronic heart and lung disease. Hyang’s income, however, could not cover the costs of her mother’s medical treatment and provide enough food for the family. As a result, she enthusiastically accepted her friend’s offer for work in China. After telling her mother that she would be back soon, she crossed the Tumen River into China, only to find that her friend had sold her to a sex trafficker.
The trafficker sold Hyang to a farmer in rural China, whom she was forced to live with. She was forced to work on his farm and maintain the household. Hyang soon birthed a son. But as the son of a North Korean woman without legal status in China, he was a stateless child and was denied access to education and other government services. Once she realized that there would be no hope for her son if they stayed in the village, she took her 6-year-old son and escaped. Because of the risk that Hyang would be trafficked again, NKHR was contacted for assistance. With your help, NKHR was able to bring Hyang and her son to South Korea safely.
These rescues would not have been possible without your generous support. On behalf of Sunbok, Eunhwa, Hyang, and Hyang’s young son, we sincerely thank you.
But remember, our work is not done yet—there are still countless others who need help. Even after escaping North Korea, desperate mothers like Sunbok and Hyang live each day in fear of being sexually trafficked or caught by Chinese authorities. That is why donations like yours are so important.
Please consider making an additional contribution to help the Rescue Fund reach its goal of raising 15 million South Korean Won (roughly USD 15,000) this year. Visit the Rescue Fund website for more information.
Thank you for your continued support,
Volunteers and Staff at the Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights
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.
On June 7th 2013, Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights received a request to help four North Korean refugees in China.
The two female refugees, both of them young women, are originally from Hamgyeong Province. Upon hearing that they could earn better money in China, they fled from their increasingly difficult lives in the North, but were sold to Chinese men.
We helped the father and his 14-year-old daughter after his college-aged son, already living in South Korea, came to us with an urgent request. After resettling, the son had remained in contact with his family in the North and had recently realized that his father and sister were sick, suffering from malnutrition and other precarious situations.
₩ 3,600,000 of the funds raised from our NKHR Refugee Rescue Fundraising Campaign Team went to help the father and his 14-year old daughter.
We are happy to announce that two female refugees, a father and his teenage daughter arrived safely in a Southeast Asian country this past week.
In a desperate attempt to maintain the regime, North Korea bars its citizens from leaving the country, but the march towards freedom continues. It is an irreversible trend. In a month or two, the four North Korean refugees will arrive in South Korea. We hope they achieve the happy lives they dream of.
Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights
Seoul, South Korea