North Korean freedom struggle comes to Mercer

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The North Korean freedom struggle has made its way onto campus.

On November 17, the Korean Student Association (KSA) hosted the non-profit organization, Liberty In North Korea (LINK). The event was designed to raise awareness about the issues North Koreans face on their journey to freedom.

“Not a lot of people know what’s going on in North Korea,” said Augustin You, president of the KSA.

Fighting to escape poverty and political persecution, thousands of North Koreans risk their lives to flee their native land. Internment in a political prison camp, torture, and death become likely outcomes for the runaways and those who aid in their exodus.

Because of the risk involved, freedom comes at a price. Many who help the refuges charge a fee. This leaves the displaced beginning their freedom in debt.

Assuming they escape successfully, the refugees make their way into China. Once there, a new set of obstacles confront them.

The displaced North Korean’s illegal status leaves them vulnerable. Employers and sex traffickers exploit the escapees. The refugee’s lack of resources and connections prevents them from making it to South Korea or the United States.

The struggles motivated even those with no direct connect to North Korea to join the cause.

Shelly Palmer, a LINK member who travels across North America sharing the stories of North Korean refugees, saw an episode of Oprah featuring Lisa Ling and her newest documentary, Inside North Korea.

“It just moved my heart so much,” she said.

LINK works to provide the refugees with a free and humane means of making the risky trek. Gathering information about the escape routes through China and Southeast Asia, the organizations has been able to establish relationships with individuals who work the passage.

The refugees are located by referral from others who have already gone through the program or by word of mouth. The escapees then meet with LINK field agents in China and are taken to Southeast Asia. Once there, the refugees are free. A large number of the North Koreans travel to South Korea or the United States.

The organization continues to assist the North Koreans as they adjust to their new life. LINK’S Resettlement Support program provides the refugees with support such as temporary housing, educational scholarships, and English lessons.

Mercer University plans to provide their own relief efforts for North Korean refugees. In May 2015, Professors John Scott and Sinjae Hyun will lead a Mercer on Mission to South Korea. The program is held in partnership with the Drim School.

Established in 2003, Drim School is the first special education foundation for North Korean refugees and offers elementary to high school education. Since its founding, the school has produced 65 high school graduates with 46 of them going on to university.

However, many of the students lack English skills and technological knowledge to compete in the South Korea job market.

Mercer students will live with the students for three weeks as they teach the students English and use LEGO Mindstorm Robotics.

To learn more about Liberty in North Korea, visit:http://www.libertyinnorthkorea.org/

To learn more about Mercer on Mission’s 2015 Korea Trip, visit:http://mom.mercer.edu/south-korea.cfm