Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Underground Railroad “On the Right Side”

More than any other Westerner, Tim Peters has become the public face of a network of activists, many motivated by their Christian faith, who try against formidable odds to bring North Koreans to Seoul. Peters and others in the network do not shrink from the comparison to the Underground Railroad of the U.S. Civil War era

"When we look back at this era, at what [the North Korean government] has done to its people, I'm convinced the civilized world will be shocked—and also shamed," Peters says softly. Shamed, he means, by its inaction, and by its lack of attention. "In the meantime," he says, "we do what we can."

Doing "what we can" is getting riskier by the day. Two governments—North Korea and China—actively seek to put the Seoul Train, as it has been called, out of business.

The result, says Peters, "is that the whole paradigm of our operations has been changed." Refugees now avoid cities in the northeast of China, hiding instead in forest caves they have dug out for themselves.

The activists running the railroad are often caught in such sweeps. Another South Korean activist …his nom de guerre, "Hite" spent a year and a half in a Chinese prison for helping North Koreans. Upon his release, says Tim Peters, Hite "headed right back into the fight."

His "faith," Hite now says, was only "reinforced while I was in prison. I knew I was on the right side."

[Excerpted from TIME magazine “Long Walk to Freedom”]

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