Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Former Korean orphan sends food and help to North Korean orphans

A photo of a 12-year-old North Korean boy on Sam Han's laptop computer pulls the dying man a half-century back in time, across continents to where he once wandered in search of his parents. Separated from his family during the Korean War, Han was sheltered by strangers until an unlikely meeting set him on a journey to the United States. He was adopted by a Minnesota professor and became a successful business executive.

Now Han wants to give other overseas orphans a shot at making a life for themselves, but his time is running out. In 2002, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given just a few years to live. The soft-spoken man with twinkling eyes sleeps little: He works most days to ship soy flour and rice meal packages to North Korean orphanages and help build a school for orphans in Tanzania. 

Han lost his parents and sister during a chaotic exodus of his village in December 1950, when North Korean troops had reached the bridge over the Han River. Then 6, Han wandered door-to-door in a poor village, begging for food.

Run out of Han's bedroom, the Han-Schneider International Children's Foundation is a small network of volunteers who send meals to two state-run North Korean orphanages and help support orphanages in Cambodia and Tanzania. Han is lobbying for a bill to encourage the federal government to let Americans adopt North Korean orphans. Opponents say the proposal could prevent families from reuniting and prompt trafficking of North Korean children.

"I think God allowed me to survive to do my mission," Han said. "That is why I am still living, and every day what I am doing is the greatest medicine."

Associated Press

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