Over the years, thousands of North Koreans have escaped from the Communist country. Smuggling routes have been established along the border of North Korea and China—the place where my sister, Laura, and her colleague were arrested while working on a story to raise awareness about humanitarian crisis inside North Korea and along its border. My sister's voice was silenced, but the story still needs to be told.
These days, when North Koreans manage to escape, the situation can be tragic, particularly for the women. After risking their lives to escape, many of them arrive in China only to be preyed upon by people wanting to make money off of them. Many thousands of North Korean women have been forced into marriages with Chinese farmers, or they have been sold into the sex industry or labor. My heart bleeds for these people.
Those who escape one level of desperation very often find themselves in another devastating predicament once they reach Chinese soil. If they are discovered by Chinese authorities, they will be immediately sent back to North Korea, where they face execution or imprisonment in a North Korean gulag. The Chinese government does not recognize the children born of North Korean women and Chinese men. If their mothers are found and repatriated, these children can become homeless orphans with no rights and no identity. There is currently legislation in the U.S. Congress led by Sam Brownback (R-KA) in the Senate and Ed Royce (R-CA) and Diane Watson (D-CA) in the House that is pushing to allow "stateless" children who are eligible to be adopted into America. Here is a link to the actual bill: HR 4986, The North Korean Refugee Adoption Act of 2010.