from North Korea and activists are gathering
in Seoul, South Korea, this week to highlight human rights violations in
closed communist nation. But their attention is also turning to China, which they say is often complicit in North Koreans’ suffering.
Non-governmental organziations (NGOs) estimate anywhere from 30,000 to 250,000 refugees
North Korea are living in China, either in border areas or deeper
inland. But China remains impervious to
flooded by refugees if they show compassion,” said Suzanne Scholte,
the North Korea Freedom Coalition, which is hosting its seventh-annual North Korea Freedom Week in Seoul through Saturday. “But refugee flows aren’t going to
the [North Korean] regime. If that was going to happen, it would have
already during the famine, so their argument doesn’t hold
refugees are Christians when they emerge from North Korea, but the whispered
refugees is to “head for a cross,” signaling a Chinese church that may
them, according to a February 2009
National Geographic report.
allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees access to border
Chinese Christians work with Christian NGOs to provide an “underground
moving refugees via several routes to safety, most often in South
of Christian NGO Durihana, admits that some of the refugees adopt
to win favor with their rescuers, but others retain and strengthen their
on arrival in South Korea.
insists that the
refugees are economic migrants and pays police a bounty to arrest and
them to North Korea. On arrival, North Korean officials pointedly
refugees about contact with Chinese Christians or Christian NGOs. If any
is admitted, execution or imprisonment is likely, according to David
2005 report, “A Prison Without Bars.”
Hawke, “Having faith in God is an act of espionage.”
Still others choose to
Korea with Bibles and other Christian resources at great risk to
example, officials in June 2009 publicly executed Ri Hyon-Ok, caught
distributing Bibles in Ryongchon, a city near the Chinese border, South
Scholte noted that North
Koreans don’t want to leave. “They leave because of Kim Jong-Il,” she
“Those [North Korean refugees] in South Korea want to go back and take
entered North Korea in recent months with the same goal in mind. Robert
evangelical Christian missionary, crossed the border on Dec. 25 with a
calling for Kim Jong-Il to resign. Officials immediately arrested Park,
according to the regime’s Korean Central News Agency. He was later
eight years of hard labor but released in late February after making
experts believe was a forced confession.
Mahli Gomes entered North Korea on Jan. 25, the same news agency
Officials sentenced Gomes to nine years of hard labor and fined him 70
new Won ($518,520).
press time Gomes remained in detention.