Saturday, March 18, 2006

North Koreans Refugees in New Jersey Seek Asylum

When starvation hit North Korea, Young Ae Ma watched countrymen who stole corn from fields being shot to death in public executions. On dozens of other occasions she witnessed official killings, including of friends and colleagues, for what seemed to be no reason at all.

Ms. Ma received word that she would be imprisoned or killed because she had had contact with a businessman who fell out of favor with the regime. She sought refuge in South Korea, entering by plane with a fake Chinese passport. In Seoul, she settled into a new life, performing with a dance troupe of defectors, remarrying a fellow North Korean and eventually hiring a smuggler to kidnap her son so he could join her in Seoul.

In early 2004, Ms. Ma and her husband traveled to America with a performing arts group of North Korean defectors and never used their return tickets.

Now, from her tiny home in northern New Jersey's Korea Town, Ms. Ma has launched a public campaign to pressure the American government into granting political asylum to her and her family. In doing so, she is providing a rare glimpse into the immigration challenges facing many North Korean defectors who are in the New York area illegally and avoiding the attention of authorities.

[Excerpt of article by Daniela Gerson, New York Sun]

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