Raved as a "gripping" documentary with "raw emotional power" by news agencies and other media, the 60-minute documentary film Seoul Train has taken the world by storm with a painted reality of the plight of North Korean refugees.
Already shown at more than 70 film festivals and screened before eight parliamentary bodies around the world, Seoul Train made what many human rights reports had touched upon into a more grappling shot of truth.
"The intention was to raise awareness," said film director and producer Jim Butterworth. "We had no idea that anyone other than our parents would see it ... that it would be seen by millions of people around the world."
The documentary takes the camera lens to the bare feet of starving children in North Korea, to refugee families moving through Asia's Underground Railroad and living in China, and to escape attempts that are sometimes successful and sometimes not. The first-hand accounts allow viewers to feel the fears and hopes through each minute.
Refugees are not able to make it to freedom all on their own. Seoul Train reveals the supporting hands of activists who place their lives on the line to help North Korean children and families gain a life where their human rights are protected. More often than not, the Underground Railroad activists were Christian.
"It turned out that men involved in the Underground Railroad are Christian and their efforts are Christian-based," said Butterworth. "You have people like Tim Peters and Chun Ki-won who are very faith motivated."
Peters, an evangelical Christian, is the founder and director of Helping Hands Korea and Chun is a pastor who has had the most success than any other activist with the Underground Railroad.
Butterworth mentioned that each person involved and risking their lives for the refugees was motivated at an individual level, whether faith-based or passion-driven.
Screenings of Seoul Train have been held throughout the world with the most recent U.S. one having taken place in Washington, D.C. The film had its television premiere in the United States on PBS' "Independent Lens" on Dec. 13 at 10 p.m.
"This is the watershed event," commented Butterworth about the premiere. "This is what is going to take a relatively obscure crisis and bring it into the mainstream so that everyone has the chance to know about it, not just the people who are involved in it today."
[From an article by Lillian Kwon, The Christian Post]