Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Underground Railroad link

Chun Ki-Won's Seoul-based Durihana Mission and others maintain a number of clandestine safe houses to hide defectors in northeastern China, where human rights groups estimate anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 North Koreans are living.

Chun spirits defectors out of China by train, bus, car or foot and into sympathetic countries that allow them to go to nations that will take them as refugees. South Korea has taken in about 8,000 North Korean refugees in the past few years, including about 1,400 this year.

During a few days in Washington last week, the refugees began many of their meetings with officials by thanking Bush, members of Congress and others who helped them reach the U.S.

"If it were not for their efforts, we'd still be in China being sold, experiencing severe r4acism," [one north Korean refugee] said.

Chun described a little of each refugee's experiences; the North Korean women sobbed as they listened.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who was instrumental in getting the refugees to the U.S., said the meeting he attended with the refugees "was one of the most profound I've ever had."

[Excerpt of an article by Valerie Reitman, L.A. Times]

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