China has increased its punishments for its own citizens who are caught helping North Koreans. The penalty used to be a fine, but now it is jail for a year or two — or for a decade or more if someone smuggles escapees to South Korea.
“Now most Chinese don’t dare help the Koreans,” said one local official who secretly protects a safe house full of North Koreans — and who even stood guard outside as I interviewed them. “But I feel so badly for them. They’re just wretched.”
With the help of incredibly courageous conductors on the modern Underground Railroad, I visited four shelters.
The North Koreans I talked to described a society that is increasingly corrupt and disillusioned.
Chinese and South Korean missionaries are also beginning to evangelize secretly in North Korea, a sign of weakening government control. One Chinese Christian I talked to had made four trips into North Korea to evangelize. “If I’d been caught, I don’t think I would have been executed,” she said, “but it wouldn’t have been good.”
[Excerpt of an editorial by Nicholas Kristoff, The New York Times]