Tim Peters’ first contact with North Korea came in 1996 when news of the famine north of the border led him to start up a project called the Ton-a-Month Club, which, as the name implies, involved collecting enough donations to buy at least a ton of grain to be sent to the North every month.
As he explains it, the transportation channels at the time were very limited and in 1998 Peters headed to the Chinese border area to see if there was a more effective way to get the aid to North Korea.
Photo: A dugout hole discovered by Chinese authorities, which was home to North Korean refugees in China.
During these fact-finding trips he came face-to-face with the grim reality of the plight of North Korean refugees hiding out in China. It changed his life and the direction of his work.
“The more vital and shocking lesson was that there were North Koreans that we could help right at our feet and that was the refugees, children who were begging in the streets of Changchun, Shenyang and Yanji,'' Peters said. “It occurred to me that here are North Koreans who are desperately in need. They're terribly fearful that the Chinese security people are going to pick them up at any point.''
From that point on the focus of Helping Hands Korea was firmly placed on refugees. While the Ton-a-Month Club continues, Peters says the greater amount of his efforts is spent helping the underground railroad for getting North Koreans out of China.
[Excerpt of article by Andrew Carroll, Korea Times]