Saturday, January 02, 2010

Chun Ki-won, a champion amongst North Korean refugees

Chun Ki-won is the founder of Durihana (Two Become One) Mission, one of the numerous Christian organizations that help North Korean defectors. Chun has masterminded the escapes of hundreds of North Koreans trapped in China, providing them sanctuary in South Korea, and other countries. The pastor’s top guide is a former drug smuggler.

He belongs to a diverse group of activists, humanitarians, traffickers, and fellow missionaries who operate the Underground Railroad. Some hope to precipitate the collapse of North Korea; others want to convert North Koreans to Christianity. What binds most of them is the instinct to aid people under severe duress. "Their sufferings in North Korea and China are indescribable," Chun says. "I have no choice but to help them."

Chun's calling as a Good Samaritan came at age 40, when the former hotel manager surprised friends and family by joining a seminary. His activism was kindled in 1995 when, as a missionary in the Yanji region, he met his first North Koreans in hiding. "These people had lost all their rights," he said. "The most important thing I could do was revive their humanity." Given the risks, Chun has an impressive record: He has orchestrated the escapes of more than 700 North Koreans, with only a handful of failures. "The North Korean government wants me dead," he said.

[Excerpt of an article by Tom O'Neill, National Geographic]

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