Friday, March 31, 2006

North Korean refugees and 2008 Olympics

Q: Are North Korean refugees economic or political refugees?
They are both. Even if they started out as economic migrants, the fact that they face persecution if they return to North Korea makes them de facto political refugees. Everyone who leaves North Korea without permission becomes a political refugee.

Q: Has South Korea government policy…made work with North Korean refugees more difficult?
I have to be careful how I answer that question publicly. [Peters paused to allow the question to be translated into Korean.] There might be some indirect consequences.
The main pressure is the 2008 Olympics, which is causing the Chinese to try to "solve the North Korean refugee problem" before they take place. Chinese policy is to get [rid of] North Korean refugees like you get rid of cockroaches. They are using bounties and other strict methods to suppress refugees. Any negative influence from the South Korean government is comparatively marginal.

Published in Korean Liberator

Thursday, March 30, 2006

China views North Korean defectors as illegal migrants

China recently repeated its view that North Korean defectors in the country are illegal migrants, not refugees, rejecting the U.N. Refugee agency's view that they should not be strictly categorized as such.

The North Koreans staying in China "are those who illegally entered the country, not refugees," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a press conference.

Qin's comments came as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres visited Beijing [for the first time in 9 years] for talks with senior government officials to address the status of the North Koreans who have fled to China.

Concerned about the punishment that the North Koreans face if sent back to the North, the UNHCR has been pressing the Chinese government for access to the migrants. China has so far rejected the request.

[Japan Economic Newswire]
related post

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Childhood in a North Korean labor camp

Kang Chol-hwan writes the most remarkable embodiment of the unpredictable consequences of human decision-making you could ever hope to come across.

He spent his childhood in the Yoduk No 15 labour camp in North Korea, where almost his entire family - grandmother, father, uncle and sister - were sent when he was nine. His grandfather, head of a state distribution system, had offended the authorities in some unknown way (and was never seen again).

His extraordinary memoir, Aquariums of Pyongyang, was published in the United States a few years ago but only recently came out in Britain. It is not a colorfully told story, but it does not need to be: the facts sing.

As a boy, Kang witnessed his share of public executions in the camp, and worked on the burial details (many inmates succumbed to hunger and disease). He himself learned to catch rats to survive. The family of a particularly well-fed looking friend of his, he discovered, had turned part of their hut into a rat farm.

[The Telegraph]

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Thai PM Calls for Crackdown on North Korean Refugees

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has called on local authorities in Thai border provinces to take stricter measures against an influx of refugees from North Korea, the Bangkok Post reported. The embattled premier made the call while on the campaign trail to the northern province of Chiang Rai, which borders Laos, a popular route for refugees from North Korea fleeing via China.

The paper reported defection attempts from North Korea are on the rise, with 212 North Koreans arrested in Thailand since 2004. On March 19, the paper reported authorities in Chiang Rai were stepping up security measures to stop North Korean refugees crossing the Mekong River to enter Thailand illegally.

[The Chosun Ilbo]

Monday, March 27, 2006

Seek asylum - but where?

What's a poor North Korean refugee in China to do? Staying put, you have to hide out. Other than lie low, or return to North Korea, there are two options. One is to seek asylum in a foreign mission in China. Some years ago there was a rush of embassy incursions in Beijing, aided by activists. The lucky ones who made it eventually got to Seoul; but since then security around embassies has been tightened.

A few still succeed via this diplomatic route, but for most, the only option is to continue the journey: to get out of China into another country.

That means going either north or south: to Mongolia, or Southeast Asia. Either journey is both physically arduous and risky. A 17-year-old boy, Lee Chol-hun, who had spent half his life hiding in China, was shot - in the back, by some accounts - and killed by a Chinese border guard while trying to cross into Mongolia.

Even once over the border, the unforgiving Gobi takes its toll. Yoo Chul-min was just 10 when he perished, lost and exhausted in the desert.

The southerly route, which more take, has its own perils. You have to cross the length of China. Physically you blend in, but just hope no one tries to talk to you and twigs that you're a foreigner. Again this is costly and risky. An "underground railway" of activist NGOs may help with money and safe houses.

--Aidan Foster-Carter, honorary senior research fellow in sociology and modern Korea, Leeds University, England.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

North Korean Prison Camp: Lee-young Gahl

Lee-young Gahl used to be a famous basketball player in North Korea. He ended up in a political prison camp simply because his father was a landowner.

One day, Mr. Gahl found the ox-tail whip [that one of the guards] used to carry, soaked it in water to soften it, and ate it in secret.

When this was discovered the following day, [the guard] brutally beat him in front of all the prisoners. He then ordered the supervisor to bring squirming roundworms from the toilets, which had been put on a stick, and the heartless security officer forced it into the mouth of the helpless Mr. Gahl, who was on the ground.

That night, he ran a high fever and his body swelled up from the severe assault he had suffered. With his head on my legs as a pillow, he let out sighs saying: "Yong, all I did was inherit what my father had left me. Is it such a horrendous crime? Do I really deserve this kind of punishment?"

After three days he died.

--As related by Yong Kim, who escaped from a political prison camp in North Korea, and after living as a refugee in China, arrived safely in South Korea via China and Mongolia one year later.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Taking a position because it is right

I dedicate the publishing of these quotations to those who are giving their lives to help North Korean refugees, as well as speaking out on the atrocities of North Korea, and to all those who have taken a position to work in some way on behalf of the world’s poor and downtrodden:

"Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right?
"And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular- but one must take it simply because it is right.” - Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his own life for others.” - Jesus Christ

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Men who have laid down their lives for others

John Yoon is a 64-year-old Korean-American, Korean born. He was arrested in May 2005 while working to help North Korean refugees. He has gone to China multiple times. When the Chinese authorities arrested him they showed him three notebooks they had compiled on him and this group. He has some serious medical conditions… and winter is [upon him] in his unheated prison in northern China.

Jeffrey Park (Korean-American) fell into a river while trying to help six North Korean refugees across a river from China to Myamar, and was lost. He had given the group’s last life preserver to one of the refugees.

Choi Young-hun, a Korean, was leading a group of 5 NGOs who bought a fishing-boat. They planned to use it to ship 60 refugees to South Korea. Just days before they were going to set out, Chinese authorities arrested the group, including Choi. I don’t know how the Chinese authorities found out. Maybe they were betrayed for the bounty that Chinese authorities put on refugees and those helping them. Choi has been in prison for 3 years and is in poor health.

--An account by Tim Peters, as published in Korean Liberator

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Suffering Chinese Christians

"They hung me up across an iron gate, then they yanked open the gate and my whole body lifted until my chest nearly split in two. I hung like that for four hours."

That is how Peter Xu Yongze, the founder of one of the largest religious movements in China, described his treatment during one of five jail sentences on account of his belief in Christianity.

China's new generation of leaders are trying to consolidate control of the country as it goes through rapid social and economic changes. China's Christian population - especially those who refuse to worship in the tightly regulated state-registered churches - is seen as a threat to this control. And this is exacerbated by the fact that the number of Christians in China continues to rise.

One high-profile case is that of Gong Shengliang, head of the South China Church, who was sentenced to death in 2001. His sentence was commuted to a prison term, but Amnesty has received reports that he has been severely tortured in jail.

Peter Xu said that while he was in jail, he saw several people even being killed for their faith.
"A believer was praying, so a jailer made other prisoners lift him up to the ceiling and drop him to the ground many times until he died," Mr Xu said.

But government crackdowns - and even torture - may not make people like Peter Xu give up their faith. "Despite all the persecution and suffering, God is calling more and more people in China," he said.

Full BBC article

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Speaking out for the truth

Dedicated to those speaking out about the atrocities of North Korea and China, and on behalf of the downtrodden everywhere:

"First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the communist and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionists. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me."

- Pastor Niemoeler (victim of the Nazis)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Yodok Story: Musical about North Korean Prison Camp

Many writers have pointed out that the new show that opened in Seoul, South Korea, Yodok Story, takes on an unlikely topic for a musical: prison camps in Stalinist North Korea.

On the side of reality, the director and choreographer are North Korean -- and both were once prisoners in the vast North Korean gulag system.

Kim Young-sun, the show's 70-year-old choreographer, spent eight and a half years at the Yodok prison camp and later found out she'd been imprisoned for knowing too much about the personal lives of North Korean leaders.

The show's director Jung Sung-san, 37, also spent time inside North Korea's prisons: three months in Sariwon camp. Jung was a soldier when he was arrested. His crime?

NPR News reports, "I was caught listening to South Korean radio reports about the death of our leader Kim Il-sung," he recalls.

Choreographer Kim says the reality of life and death for families inside the vast prison camps is much worse than the musical depicts.

"I lost my parents and I lost my son as well. My son drowned. When I heard I about it, I ran about 10 kilometers home, but all I saw was his dead body. My parents starved to death. When I think about such things, what is described in the musical is nothing."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Musical Tackles Life in North Korean Prison Camp

The director of the musical Yodok Story, Jung Sung-san, says his father was stoned to death in a prison camp, and that motivated him to press ahead with this musical. But it's been difficult.

He says the South Korean government has pressured him not to produce the show. It's attempting reconciliation with the North and is avoiding publicizing the horrors of the regime. One of the companies funding Yodok Story backed out in November 2005 because it was afraid of the South Korean government.

Choreographer Kim Young-sun says she doesn't understand why the world doesn't seem to care.

"Why is it that in North Korea there is a disaster going on, and no one knows about it? Through this art, I want people to know the reality of these prison camps. And the reality of North Korea's prison camps is that they are worse than Auschwitz."

This musical tackles the weighty themes of life and death, good and evil, ideological fervor and human love. And it ends with a Christian message of forgiveness and redemption, accompanied by the Lord's Prayer in Korean.

The director now wants to take the show to the United States. "This is my mission," he says. "I need to tell the world the truth."

[From “All Things Considered” by Louisa Lim, NPR News]

Saturday, March 18, 2006

North Koreans Refugees in New Jersey Seek Asylum

When starvation hit North Korea, Young Ae Ma watched countrymen who stole corn from fields being shot to death in public executions. On dozens of other occasions she witnessed official killings, including of friends and colleagues, for what seemed to be no reason at all.

Ms. Ma received word that she would be imprisoned or killed because she had had contact with a businessman who fell out of favor with the regime. She sought refuge in South Korea, entering by plane with a fake Chinese passport. In Seoul, she settled into a new life, performing with a dance troupe of defectors, remarrying a fellow North Korean and eventually hiring a smuggler to kidnap her son so he could join her in Seoul.

In early 2004, Ms. Ma and her husband traveled to America with a performing arts group of North Korean defectors and never used their return tickets.

Now, from her tiny home in northern New Jersey's Korea Town, Ms. Ma has launched a public campaign to pressure the American government into granting political asylum to her and her family. In doing so, she is providing a rare glimpse into the immigration challenges facing many North Korean defectors who are in the New York area illegally and avoiding the attention of authorities.

[Excerpt of article by Daniela Gerson, New York Sun]

Friday, March 17, 2006

Accepting North Korean refugees and U.S. security

Accepting refugees North Korea is a challenge because of security issues involved, but the U.S. could certainly do more to open up to them, a presidential adviser said Thursday.
Stephen Hadley, head of the National Security Council, said the issue involves a "trade-off" between opening up and helping the refugees and national security.
"You want to be open to people. You want to be open to refugees," Hadley said at a question-and-answer session with the U.S. Institute of Peace. " the same time, we cannot be (in) a position of letting people into our country who, at the end of the day, do harm to it," he said.
"It's a balance test," Hadley said. "And in many instances, we have not gotten the balance right.""And the president has given the Secretary of State clear guidance that one of her challenges is to relook at these things and make sure we've gotten the balance right," he said.
[Yonhap News]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Lawmakers Frustrated about North Korea Refugee Act

It's a wait and see if there's any response. A bipartisan group of nine senior U.S. lawmakers have sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expressing frustrations with the non-implementation of the North Korea Refugee Act, and urging the administration to establish an asylum policy for North Korean refugees.

Case in point: No North Koreans have been offered asylum since President George W. Bush signed the North Korean Human Rights Act into law in October 2004.

The lawmakers also expressed alarm that the president apparently included no money for the act in his most recent budget request. The act had authorized $20 million to help North Koreans outside their homeland; $2 million to support human rights, democracy and economic reform in North Korea; and $2 million to help broadcast information into North Korea.

The State Department had no immediate comment on the letter, but Rice told Congress that her office was reviewing its policies "to see if we can find a way to participate in the refugee activities."

The letter, citing congressional testimony by humanitarian workers, said "some State Department employees at our own embassies in China, Vietnam and Thailand have actually refused to assist North Korean refugees who were at terrible risk."

In October, Timothy Peters, the founder of Helping Hands Korea, said at a hearing that U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing rebuffed him when he tried to arrange help for a 17-year-old North Korean refugee. "I thought to myself, `Is this the State Department's implementation of the North Korean Human Rights Act?'" he said.

The letter also demanded that the United States urge China to stop what lawmakers said were efforts to send North Korean refugees back to their homeland and to jail humanitarian workers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

North Korea Top Persecutor

For the fourth straight year, the isolated communist nation of North Korea remains atop the 2006 Open Doors “World Watch List” of 50 countries where Christians are persecuted the most. The list is based on evaluations and testimonies obtained by Open Doors’ indigenous contacts, field workers and members of the persecuted church.

It is believed that tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps where they face cruel abuses. Some think the hermit regime has detained more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world.

On occasion, North Koreans become Christians after crossing the border into China as refugees and entering into contact with local Christians. Many are exposed as believers when they return to North Korea. Many face torture and death.

Due to the continuing severity of persecution, Open Doors USA has launched a Prayer Campaign for North Korea. As a member of the North Korea Freedom Coalition (NKFC), Open Doors USA is partnering with NKFC during the North Korea Freedom Week April 24-30, 2006. (To get your church involved in this event, including ordering prayer materials, contact Open Doors USA Advocacy Coordinator Lindsay Vessey at )

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

North Korean refugees in China

North Korean refugees in China are entirely vulnerable in China.

This fact was tragically underscored in an episode that involved the precarious fate in China of two teenaged daughters of a former military officer in the North Korean army. When the entire family of four was arrested in China and repatriated to North Korea, the father was immediately executed as a traitor without trial.

The mother was sent to a labor camp, and the two daughters (ages 14 and 17) were eventually released. The two teens showed remarkable resourcefulness by crossing to China again.

[Through the Underground Railroad network] we were able to find a shelter for the girls, however the younger of the two daughters wandered away from the safe house and was picked up by Chinese police & repatriated. The older sister is safe for now, but runs the risk of being trapped into human trafficking if not rescued soon.

I’d had high hopes that my own government (U.S.) would lend assistance, but those hopes were dashed, so options are being explored to move her along the Underground Railroad to safety.

--Tim Peters, Helping Hands Korea [Excerpts of a speech to Joint Session of NGOs and Lawmakers]

Monday, March 13, 2006

First Hand Account: Arrest and Torture

I was working in the Trade Section of the State Security Department as an agent for the West Sea Asahi Trading Company, when I was arrested in May 1993.

In a secret den in Maram of Yongsung District in Pyongyang, the police began to interrogate me. They asked me what my purpose was for entering the State Security Department and harassed me for my boldness in posing as a patriot, hiding my true identity as the son of a spy. They tortured me for answers that I had no way of giving.

The different forms of torture are too numerous to recount. Sometimes they put a wooden stick with sharp edges behind my knees, made me kneel, and then trampled my body with their heavy boots. At other times, they would hang me by the shackles on my wrists, high enough so that I was forced to stand on tiptoe. At night water would fill the solitary cell up to my stomach, depriving me of any sleep. During the long hours under water my body would gradually swell up, making it difficult for me to keep my balance. If I fell, the guards kicked me until I scrambled up again in extreme pain and fatigue.

The endless tortures were wasted on me because I could not have confessed to something I had neither done nor known. If anything I was a loyal son of KIM Il-sung and the state. Raised in an orphanage since the age of four, while other kids played in the loving arms of their parents, I was more influenced by the Party and the Great Leader KIM Il-sung than by my own parents. Naturally, I grew up to be a faithful worker whose loyalty to the Party and the Leader was impeccable.

After three months of repeated questioning, threats, and torture, I was driven five hours from Pyongyang, going through five guard posts. When I was finally let out of the car, my eyes wandered so that I could try and figure out where I was, but a quick order came from one of the men:

"Head to the ground and be still!" I complied submissively only to feel heavy boots kicking my head.

-- Yong Kim, who escaped from a political prison camp in North Korea in 1998, and 1 year later arrived safely in South Korea via China and Mongolia.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

North Korea View on Religion

Religious freedom is essentially absent in North Korea, where the government severely represses public and private religious activities.

In recent years, the government has formed several religious organizations that it controls for the purpose of severely restricting religious activities in the country. For example, the Korean Buddhist Federation prohibits Buddhist monks from worshiping at "official" North Korean temples.

Most of the remaining temples that have escaped government destruction since the Korean War are regarded as cultural relics rather than religious sites.

Similarly, the Korean Christian Federation restricts Christian activities [which begun with] wholesale destruction of over 1,500 churches during Kim Il Sung's reign (1948-1994).

[Excerpts from The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)]

Saturday, March 11, 2006

North Korea View on Christianity

Persons found carrying Bibles in public or distributing religious literature, or engaging in unauthorized religious activities such as public religious expression and persuasion are arrested and imprisoned. There continue to be reports of torture and execution of religious believers.

Officials have arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and sometimes executed North Korean citizens who were found to have ties with overseas Christian evangelical groups operating across the border in China, as well as those who engaged in unauthorized religious activities such as public religious expression and persuasion.

Thousands of North Koreans have fled to China in recent years. Refugees who are either forcibly repatriated or captured after having voluntarily returned to the DPRK are accused of treason; those found to have had contacts with South Koreans or Christian missionaries are subjected to severe punishment, including the death penalty.

[Excerpts from The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)]

Friday, March 10, 2006

North Korea’s Caste System

“Officials have stratified North Korean society into 51 specific categories on the basis of family background and perceived loyalty to the regime.

“Religious adherents are by definition relegated to a lower category, receiving fewer privileges and opportunities, such as education and employment.

“Persons in lower categories have reportedly been denied food aid.

“Prisoners held on the basis of their religious beliefs are treated worse than other inmates. For example, religious prisoners, especially Christians, are reportedly given the most dangerous tasks while in prison. In addition, they are subject to constant abuse from prison officials in an effort to force them to renounce their faith. When they refuse, these religious prisoners are reportedly beaten and have died following torture.”

[Excerpts from The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)]

Thursday, March 09, 2006

North Koreans Catch Rats for Survival

Finding food in the detention settlement is an endless battle for survival. We ate whatever we could find – rats, frogs, snakes, insects, grass, beans, or corn grains found in cattle droppings.

If we were caught eating anything other than the rationed corn, we were severely punished. However, the severe beatings and punishments did not stop the prisoners from attempting to get additional food.

Catching a snake is a real fortune, like butchering a cow. If they find a snake while working, all of them work together to kill it and share it among themselves.

The great men in the settlement are those who are good at finding food or catching rats, snakes or frogs. At first, they used a lance or spear to kill the rats. But they devised all kinds of hooks to catch rats. Rats became extremely difficult to find.

Sometimes, they would [see] crows flying with a branch of corn. The prisoners would throw stones at the crows and they would drop the corn before flying away.

Those who could not find other food would often break ice in the stream to look for frog eggs.

--From an account by Ahn Hyok, Former Detention Settlement Prisoner

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Slaves purchased from North Korea

The U.S. State Department, which last year placed China on its watch list for human trafficking, defines the practice as “modern day slavery, involving victims who are forced, defrauded, or coerced into labor or sexual exploitation.”

There are between 600,000 and 800,000 people, mostly women and children, trafficked across national borders, according to the State Department.

More than 250,000 of those victims are in China.

Slaves are also purchased from North Korea and within China and forced into manual labor.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, said “80 to 90 percent of the refugees from North Korea, particularly women and children end up as trafficking victims.”


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Measure of Peace

"Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. … Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free."
- The Dalai Lama

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Odds of Remaining Free in China

North Korean refugees in China carry no recognized ID, remain continuously defenseless to arrest, detention, trafficking, slavery, brutality & ultimately, repatriation.

From 70 %- 95% of all North Korean women [who take refuge in China] fall into sex trafficking.

At present, 400 - 500 North Korean refugees are repatriated every week from China to North Korea.

Furthermore, the Chinese are prepared to detain & repatriate as many as 2,500 per week as the need arises.

[Excerpts of a speech to Joint Session of NGOs and Lawmakers]

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Prep for 2008 Beijing Olympics

As the 2008 Beijing Olympics approach, there is every indication that the Beijing leadership has put a priority of ridding its soil of North Korean refugees.

Tragically, however, it is not doing so by making use of the international agreements and treaties it is signatory to with the UN and UNHCR.

Instead, it is using what I call a blunt “pest removal” mechanism of blocking entrances and exits, and flushing out refugees through bribes to its own citizens, to reveal whereabouts of refugees and activists.

To accomplish this “sanitized, refugee-free” environment, China, to our understanding, has shifted the task of refugee “pest control” from its provincial law enforcement agencies to its federal internal security apparatus (the latter being much like the FBI in the US.)

[Excerpts of a speech by Tim Peters to Joint Session of NGOs and Lawmakers]

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Huge Prayer Vigil for North Korea

A crowd of 26,000, including 6000 pastors, gathered in Seoul this week to participate in a 2–day prayer vigil to pray for the persecuted of North Korea.

Besides prayer, the purpose was also to “bring awareness about the types of brutality, torture, slavery, as well as other non-humane conditions [North Koreans are experiencing] as part of their daily lives.”


Friday, March 03, 2006

What Makes Tim Peters Tick

I am often asked; ‘Why am I, as a non-Korean, interested in North Korea human rights and refugees?’ … My deepest rooted beliefs regarding the repression of 200,000 political prisoners, including Christians, raised my Christian convictions to care.

In many ways I am ill-suited for the task of helping North Koreans. First, despite living in Korea for 15 years, I speak Korean poorly. Second, I have only been in North Korea for two days in 1999 to deliver food aid. Third, I do not have a scholarly background on North Korea. But I was moved to help by the stories of suffering in North Korea, especially orphans, and the suffering I saw among North Korean refugees that I met in China.

I think the ‘defining moment’ for me came in 2002 - I had already been involved in helping North Korean refugees. I met a 10-year-old North Korean boy named Yoo Chul-min. Read more.

--Tim Peters, Helping Hands Korea

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What Makes Tim Peters Tick (2)

[The group of North Korean refugees] trying to cross into Mongolia decided that they had no choice but to try to cross part of the Gobi desert without a guide. The group was lost for 32 hours and [a 10-year-old accompanying the team] died of exposure.

You might wonder if someone could die so quickly. People from more developed countries might have survived 32 hours in the desert in summer.

The damage of five or six years of malnutrition in North Korea had weakened [the 10-year-old] and he quickly died, when a healthier person might have lived. An entire generation has been weakened and had its intellectual capacity reduced by famine caused by North Korea’s failed economic policies.

I came to believe that I must do something to help. The real question is ‘How could you not care?’ It is a test of our humanity and, for those of faith (whether you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or another faith) of our fidelity to our beliefs.

--as related by Tim Peters, Helping Hand Korea

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tim Peters’ Mission in Life

Tim Peters, head of Helping Hands Korea, is a soft-spoken man who has taken on an imposing mission; to feed starving North Koreans. His organization also helps North Korean refugees by operating secret shelters in China and an underground railroad which helps North Koreans escape to freedom. Peters is also an advocate for the North Korean people, having testified before Congress and spoken about North Korea’s human rights crisis before numerous gatherings.

Tim Peters is a good man trying to do his best in a precarious position. As a foreigner in Korea, he is limited in the things he can say and still stay in the country. He seems to believe (rightfully, in my opinion) that his mission in directly aiding North Korean refugees is more important than calling the South Korean government to task for abandoning them.

We are all given different gifts and Peters’ greatest gift is his ability to aid North Korean refugees from South Korea and to get their stories to the outside world.

In the end, it is the Korean people who will have to demand a change in South Korean government policy.

By Andy Jackson, Korean Liberator