WE BRING REFUGEES HIDING IN CHINA THROUGH A 3,500 MILE MODERN DAY “UNDERGROUND RAILROAD” TO FREEDOM
WE PROVIDE SUPPORT, ENCOURAGEMENT, CARE,
AND GUIDANCE AS REFUGEES NAVIGATE INTO
NEW SOCIETIES AND SYSTEMS.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans have left behind their families and homes, fleeing because of extreme economic hardships, political and religious persecution and a denial of basic freedoms. It is impossible to go directly to South Korea, because the DMZ which separates the two Koreas is the most heavily fortified border in the world. They instead go into China, where they still have to live in hiding because of an agreement between the Chinese and North Korean governments to forcibly repatriate those who have crossed without permission.
North Koreans know that when they escape their country they are risking their lives – people have been shot and have drowned in the river at the border, and if caught in China and sent back they are at risk of extreme punishments including detention, torture, forced abortions, detainment in labor-training camps or political prison camps, and even execution. Even family members of defectors are subject to punishment.
Despite North Korean refugees’ well-founded fear of persecution upon repatriation, Chinese authorities fail to protect the 30,000-50,000 who have crossed the perilous border, violating the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees to which the Chinese government itself is a signatory. North Koreans’ illegal status leaves them extremely vulnerable in China. The majority are women and 70-80% of them fall prey to traffickers. They are sold to men who struggle to find wives in rural areas of China or are forced to work in the commercial sex industry.