Friday, February 03, 2006

North Korean Defectors' Winding Trail to Europe

Six North Korean defectors have now been accepted as refugees by the Belgian government, and an unknown number is believed to have reached France, after a marathon journey spanning several years and tens of thousands of miles.

“It was hard to survive in North Korea,” a 22-year-old defector surnamed Kim, who arrived in February 2005, told RFA. “My father passed away, leaving me no relatives. So I was afraid I would die.”

“My father’s sister was living in China...She arranged my escape and paid for me. My aunt encouraged me to go to a Western country, so I came to Belgium,” he said.

Like most defectors, Kim’s first port-of-call after leaving his homeland was China, where South Korean missionaries and clandestine networks combine to take North Koreans on a dangerous “underground railroad”-style journey to a third, fourth, or even fifth country.

Some pass through Vietnam and Thailand on their way to South Korea, while others spend time in Mongolia awaiting resettlement, according to interviews with missionaries working with North Koreans throughout Northeast and Southeast Asia, and with successful defectors in South Korea.

[Radio Free Asia]

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