Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Helping Hands Korea's aid to North Koreans

Tim Peters came to be one of the founding members of the effort to aid North Koreans long after he first arrived in South Korea. In 1975, [Peters went to] Seoul as a lay missionary, when … South Korea was an authoritarian state under the leadership of Chun Doo Hwan.

As part of his missionary work, Peters became involved in human-rights issues, and was soon thrown out of the country for handing out leaflets that criticized the Seoul government. He returned to live in Seoul in the late '80s, and then for a third time in 1996. South Korea was by then a democratic, prosperous nation, "and for a time I wondered why the Lord had brought me back to this place," says Peters.

But North Korea was in the midst of a horrific famine. "One night it just dawned on me, I wasn't here this time for South Korea, I was here for the North, to try to do the Lord's work and help people there. It couldn't have been any clearer."

Peters formed Helping Hands Korea in 1996, and within just two years, as refugees tried to escape the famine, the beginnings of the Underground Railroad took shape. "We were overwhelmed," he says now. That's when the organization's mission became more focused: helping North Koreans in crisis, people who really needed help getting to freedom."

[Excerpted from TIME magazine “Long Walk to Freedom”]

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