This year we had a goal to provide rescues to 100 North Korean refugees and we’re happy to announce that we have surpassed that goal. Over 100 North Koreans left lives of fear and hiding for ones of freedom and opportunity. Thank you to everyone who has supported our mission. We couldn’t have done this without your help.
Meet some of the people you helped this year:
After escaping from North Korea, Jung Ha’s mother was sold off three times as a bride under the pretense that she was going to be given a job. With the last husband, Jung Ha was born. Her mother knew there was a better life waiting for them in South Korea, so they escaped China together through LiNK’s network. Jung Ha can only speak Chinese right now, but her mother is slowly teaching her Korean to prepare for her new life in South Korea.
Hyun Mi graduated high school at the height of the famine. So, instead of going to college she worked with her parents in the markets. During this time, she came down with tuberculosis. However, even though she worked hard, she could not afford treatment and decided to escape to China to try to improve her situation. Once in China, she connected with LiNK’s network and was brought to safety. Now, strong and optimistic about the future, Hyun Mi aspires to study medicine in South Korea.
Living most of her life with little to eat, Sung Joo did not know that there was more to be expected from life. That is until she started watching television shows coming from China and South Korea. “That is when reality set in and my thoughts changed,” she said. In South Korea, Sung Joo is excited to attend university as a piano major. She also wants to study baking, with the hopes of one day being able to open a music cafe of her own.
Duk Jin came under suspicion from the North Korean secret police after helping a family member leave the country. Fearing he would be sent to a labor camp, he and his wife made the decision to escape. Duk Jin and his wife are now safe in South Korea. He hopes that more North Koreans will find out about LiNK’s efforts in China and Southeast Asia. In his words, “LiNK must continue its work until the word ‘North Korean refugee’ no longer exists.”
After Ga Won was severely beaten and tortured in a re-education camp in North Korea, she resolved to escape. She lived and worked in China for about a year and was fortunate to meet good people who helped her prepare for her journey to South Korea. After resettling, she wants to study English, but most importantly, she wants to advocate for the North Korean people so their voices can be heard.
Sae Won was sold as a bride in China soon after she escaped North Korea. She was able to flee from her captors, but was caught by the North Korean authorities when she tried to go back home. They threw her in prison and tortured and beat her. After she was released, she escaped to China for a second time. It was during this time that she reconnected with a friend who had resettled in South Korea who put her in touch with LiNK. Sae Won wants to resettle in the U.S. and would like to be a social worker or work for a non-profit to bring awareness to people inside North Korea about the outside world that awaits them.
Min Hyuk enlisted in the North Korean military after he came of age, but found that it was in shambles; Soldiers were not properly fed and many often foraged or stole food. One day, Min Hyuk was caught trying to steal a farm animal to eat but he escaped before he could be punished. After crossing in China, he was discovered by a farmer who put him in touch with LiNK’s network. Min Hyuk looks forward to attending school once he resettles in South Korea.
After Yoo Kyung‘s daughter escaped North Korea and resettled safely, she decided to escape too. After crossing the Tumen River, she went door to door in China asking for help. Just as she was ready to give up hope, a kind Chinese-Korean man let her in. He gave her food and allowed her to call a contact in China. Now, she plans to contact her family to tell them how free life outside North Korea really is and that there are people who can help them escape from China.
Seung Ha‘s parents told her the only goal she needed to focus on was marrying well. Desiring the freedom to choose her own path, she escaped to China. Seung Ha lived comfortably in China for several years and even had a boyfriend. However, her opportunities for a future were limited because she lacked legal documents. Now, she’s not sure whether she will return to China after she receives proper documents, or whether she will stay in South Korea and make a new life.
Chang Soo’s struggles in North Korea started toward the end of the famine and spanned for nearly two decades. During this time, he found it incredibly difficult to get enough to eat. Despite the danger, he began trading across the border to survive and was arrested twice for it. Chang Soo eventually decided to leave North Korea for good to make money in China, but realized he’d never really be safe there so he escaped through our network. Now, he’s considering resettling in the U.S.
Joo Ri was sentenced to time in a forced labor camp after she was repatriated following an escape to China. After her release, she attempted to escape again but was caught and put back in prison where she was severely tortured. She was eventually released and made her final attempt to escape. This time she was successful and connected with LiNK’s network. Even though she suffered so much, she has not lost her sense of compassion, and hopes to work with resettled North Korean children and elderly people in South Korea.
Joon Hee escaped from North Korea many years ago at the age of 26. About a week after she crossed into China, she was sold as a bride for about $1300 and that is how she spent the next 17 years of her life. But though she lived in China for many years, her heart would seize with fear whenever she heard sirens, thinking the police were coming for her. Not wanting to live in fear anymore, she connected with LiNK and made the journey to freedom with her children.
Never earning more than what they could barely survive on, Da Eun and her husband realized there was no life for them in North Korea and they decided to escape. Now safely resettled in South Korea, Da Eun looks forward to realizing her dream of having a family with her husband, and also wants to start her own retail business.
Jae Chul’s life became difficult after he was put under surveillance following a family member’s escape to China. Tired of being watched and forced to live by the regime’s rules, he decided to try out China for himself. It was in China that he first heard of the option to escape to South Korea and start anew. Now that Jae Chul is free, he hopes to help other North Koreans escape so that they can experience a life of liberty, safety, and opportunity.
After she was widowed, Jung Sook escaped to China. Once she got to China, Jung Sook tried to help her good friends get out of North Korea. She was caught several times, forcibly repatriated, and thrown in a prison camp. Thankfully, she was able to escape the prison camp more than once. After successfully making it to China again, she started working at a Korean restaurant and that was where she met a kind man who courted her and brought her gifts. They are happily married today and she hopes to bring him out to South Korea soon.
After Ae Chan’s mother escaped North Korea, she was sold as a bride to a Chinese-Korean man. It was through this marriage that Ae Chan was born. Her mother thinks that Ae Chan will be the quickest in the family to adjust to life in South Korea even though she can only speak Chinese right now. She is learning Korean from her mother and now understands the basics.
In addition to rescues, we were able to provide significant support to resettled North Koreans in South Korea and the U.S. Here are a few of our favorite resettlement stories from this year:
This was a busy year for Joo Yang! She was our research & strategy intern, spoke at LiNK Summit, was featured on NPR’s Planet Money and VICE, and participated in our Study Abroad & Cultural Development Program in San Francisco.
Min Sung was accepted into university this year to study engineering and also got a new job as a delivery person for McDonald’s. Another great thing that happened to Min Sung this year was reuniting with his cousin after she escaped and arrived in South Korea.
Donna escaped North Korea along with her husband Michael and their two-year-old daughter Isabel. Although she was sad to leave some of her family behind, she decided that she’d had enough of “living like animals.” Since resettling in the U.S., she’s gone on to start her own business running a sushi kiosk in a university cafeteria. Her daughter is enrolled in school and can speak fluent English.
Hye Won started tutoring through our English Teaching & Cultural Exchange Program this year and was able to get an awesome score on her TOEFL (English as a foreign language) exam. Now, she is planning to apply to exchange programs through her university.
This year, Brian got married (his wife is also from North Korea), has been attending university, and now he and his wife are expecting a baby!
Thank you for making 2014 a life-changing year! We can’t wait to show you what impact we have in 2015.