Seoul Train is a gripping documentary exposé into the life-and-death struggle faced by North Korean refugees as they flee their homeland through China, which does not recognize their legal status as refugees. Combining verité and hidden camera footage with personal stories and interviews, the film brings to light this humanitarian tragedy of a neglected people risking—and often losing—their lives for freedom.
Due to the North Korean regime's human rights abuses, persecuted and hungry North Koreans find that their only option is to flee to China. The North Korean government also prohibits the UN special rapporteur on human rights from visiting the country and stymies the efforts of NGOs remaining in North Korea.
Kim Jung-il has ordered the World Food Program (WFP) to cease its operations—upon which one-third of the population depends—by December 31, 2005. In addition, other governments are reluctant to put human rights on the agenda in their discussions with North Korea for fear that North Korea will withdraw from the six-party nuclear disarmament talks.
As depicted in Seoul Train, the refugees flee to China, where the Chinese government flouts international law, to which it is a party, by forcibly repatriating refugees who will face known persecutions in North Korea (a practice known as “refoulement”). The Chinese government also prohibits access to the refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as other humanitarian groups. Moreover, the UNHCR refuses to do everything it can to gain access to the refugees, including taking legal action against the Chinese government to force its compliance with international refugee law.