I’ve been one of the few lucky members of LiNK’s staff able to participate directly in our rescue missions, and it’s been an experience like none other. Before I became a Field Manager, I volunteered with LiNK and heard the stories of North Korean refugees (I even got to meet a few). However, meeting them as they take their first steps of freedom is truly amazing. Once the North Korean refugees we assist meet with us, they are free to choose where their next steps will take them, whether that means South Korea, the US, or a different country. As field staff, I get to hear their sighs of relief and excited chatter as they realize that they finally have a choice in their futures.
Many North Koreans I’ve met have told me that their safe arrival in Southeast Asia feels like a dream. As we introduce them to LiNK and explain how our supporters from around the world financed their escape, the refugees thank us and ask us to let our supporters know how grateful they are. In one of the last groups, a refugee told me he wished everyone inside North Korea could know about organizations like LiNK. He said many North Koreans want to leave, but are afraid that there are no options without the right amount of money. He wants these would-be-defectors to know there are organizations that will help them escape without paying a thing.
“I get to hear their sighs of relief and excited chatter as they realize that they finally have a choice in their futures.”
Some of the other refugees in the group told me they never could have imagined that non-North Koreans could care so much about the North Korean people. To hear that LiNK’s supporters care so much both inspires and bewilders them. Although they may not immediately understand what tours are, or what great lengths rescue teams go to in order to raise money, the important thing is that they understand that there are thousands of people rooting for them.
Today, I made a visit to the DMZ. Like many tourists, I had the opportunity to go to the Joint Security Area and look across the Military Demarcation Line at the North Korean soldiers standing on the other side. But what got to me, more than the soldiers, was the fact that I was looking straight into the country that the refugees we assist have all fled from. It’s incredibly unfair that the North Korean people do not have the simple right to leave their country in order to visit their brothers and sisters (sometimes literally) in the south. One day, the Joint Security Area will simply be a museum, and there will be both North and South Koreans visiting. Until then, I hope that you continue to support us in our efforts to empower the North Korean people. Change is happening and it cannot be stopped.
*Because of security reasons, we do not reveal the identities of our field staff.