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5 Organizations Helping to Resettle North Koreans

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has committed numerous human rights violations throughout modern history. Many North Koreans who have managed to escape the country reveal the horrific conditions in which they lived. These conditions include generational incarceration in concentration camps, the public execution of dissidents and mass famine.

As such, many North Koreans have attempted the escape their country through secret escape routes and brokers. To escape, North Koreans must traverse forests, cross the Yalu River and navigate heavily patrolled areas. Unfortunately, many don’t make it. Those who survive must then adapt to and resettle in modern society, a complicated and tedious process.

Resettlement is difficult because North Korea lacks technological, social and economic progress. Additionally, many North Korean refugees face discrimination due to stigma. North Korea is so technologically behind, many North Koreans have never touched a computer. This makes it near impossible to find a job or receive an education when they resettle in new countries, like South Korea.

Luckily, many institutions help North Korean refugees resettle in these new cultures and societies. To do so, they provide North Korean refugees with essential skills to find a job, proper housing, education and more. Here are five organizations helping to resettle North Koreans.

5 Organizations Helping to Resettle North Koreans

  1. Teach North Korean Refugees is a nonprofit organization focused on changing the lives of North Koreans through English education. Learning fluent English can open doors to many job opportunities, especially for this globalized world. In 2013, Casie Lartigue Jr. and Eunkoo Lee founded the organization after they witnessed the obstacles North Korean refugees face. The organization began as a small assembly and before growing into a larger nonprofit. Currently, Teach North Korean Refugees has helped 411 North Korean refugees learn English. The organization boasts 914 tutors. Of these, North Korean refugees may a tutor according to their teaching style. They may then choose one of two courses: “Finding My Way,” which covers English basics, and “Telling My Own Story,” which focuses on writing and public speaking. Volunteers can donate and even apply to tutor on their site.
  2. Crossing Borders is a Christian-based organization that primarily focuses on assisting North Koreans refugees trapped in China. The Chinese government considers North Korean refugees to be unlawful economic migrants and returns them to North Korea upon capture. As a result, many North Korean refugees face persecution and exploitation. Accordingly, Crossing Borders provides counseling, medical assistance, safety, and job training to North Korean refugees. It also offers community building and Christian counseling. While the organization does not require North Korean refugees to be Christian, they provide optional mass services. The organization also takes care of underage North Korean refugees who are without parents. It provides safe housing and education for children until they are either adopted or reunited with family members.
  3. The Mulmangcho Foundation is probably one of the most essential resettlement organizations in South Korea. It offers direct training to North Korean refugees, enabling a smoother resettlement process. The organization has several programs for different needs. For instance, Open School helps North Korean refugees with everyday tasks, such as opening a bank account. The publishing programs provide North Korean refugees with a variety of writing tools. These tools are designed to enable North Korean refugees to publish their own stories and learn public speaking. Currently, six children’s books, based on actual experiences, and two nonfiction books have been published through The Mulmangcho Foundation. Furthermore, the organization helps South Korean prisoners-of-war escape North Korean camps.
  4. The North Korea Refugee Aid is the American-based organization of the aforementioned Mulmangcho Foundation. It provides North Korean refugees with the necessary tools for everyday life, as well as physiological treatment and job training. The programs give North Koreans refugees the chance to study in the United States through scholarships, academic tutors and host families.
  5. HanVoice is a Canadian resettlement organization with seven chapters spread throughout universities. The organization helps resettle refugees, as well as advocates against North Korea and their human rights violations. HanVoice seeks to engage Canadians in speaking against these violations and supporting North Korean refugees. The organization’s program, HanVoice Pioneers Program, offers a six-month training course to North Korean refugees. This program provides public speaking and leadership courses, along with an internship for the Canadian Parliament.

Overall, it is essential to remember that the fight for human rights is not only dependent on politics. The conflict surrounding North Korea is complicated and cannot be solved in one summit. However, ordinary people can help North Koreans by supporting these organizations and raising awareness of the human rights violations happening in North Korea. These 5 organizations helping to resettle North Koreans provide hope and assistance that make it possible for North Koreans to achieve real freedom.

Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Flickr

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The North Korean refugee situation is not one to be taken lightly. While the American media predominantly focuses on the recent refugee crises in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, the totalitarian regime of North Korea impedes on the human rights of North Korean refugees everyday and such injustices cannot be ignored.

10 Facts about North Korean Refugees

  1. The people who live in North Korea are governed by Kim Jong-un under a completely totalitarian regime. Totalitarianism as a form of government theoretically prohibits individual freedom and expression; all aspects of an individual’s life are subject to the government’s authority. As such, media access and information about life outside of North Korea is extremely restricted.
  2. Most North Korean refugees defect to either China or South Korea. Refugees must usually travel through China to reach South Korea, as the border between North and South Korea is extremely regulated.
  3. South Korea’s media usually does not publicize individual defections, but large groups of North Koreans who defect all at once, such as the group of thirteen restaurant workers who left North Korea in April 2016, are more likely to be reported.
  4. The government of South Korea offers citizenship to all North Korean refugees who legitimately try to claim refugee status. The people seeking refuge are extensively interviewed to filter out any North Korean spies. As of May 2016, around 29,000 North Korean refugees live in South Korea.
  5. South Korea also offers reorientation classes for refugees from NK. These courses teach refugees basic life and job skills that don’t apply in North Korea, such as how to withdraw money from an ATM or shop in a Western-style supermarket.
  6. If any refugees from NK manage to escape to China, most face the fear of Chinese government discovery and the forcible repatriating that follows. Despite a signatory on the United Nations convention on refugees stating that China is not obligated to repatriate people seeking refuge, China still cooperates with the North Korean government and will even pay Chinese citizens to turn in undocumented refugees.
  7. Once they arrive back in North Korea, the refugees generally face torture, harsh physical labor and internment in political prisoner camps. It is therefore important to make sure people who want to leave North Korea can leave without fear of repatriation and punishment for leaving their country of birth.
  8. Organizations like Liberty for North Korea use donations to provide rescue and rehabilitation for North Korean refugees without any direct cost to the refugees themselves. It costs about $3,000 to fully rehabilitate one refugee. So far they have rehabilitated 505 refugees.
  9. As of May 2016, over 200,000 North Korean refugees live secretly in China. Most of them live in fear of repatriation and simply want to move on to South Korea or another country that will offer legal protection to refugees. However, tightly restricted travel between China and other countries’ borders often prevents such an opportunity.
  10. Many refugees from NK suffer from a host of mental health problems, including but not limited to depression and PTSD, even after they leave North Korea.

The cooperation of the Chinese with North Korea’s government makes the Chinese government complicit in the refugee injustices. North Korean refugees need help, and they’re looking to the rest of the world for aid.

Bayley McComb

Photo: Liberty in North Korea