Many people who have devoted their lives to helping people inside North Korea and those who've escaped from that country and are living in limbo in China and other countries. LiNK, or Liberty in North Korea, is one such organization that my family has been involved with for a long time. LiNK is on the front lines of trying to assist those who've managed to escape North Korea and helps them find refuge in other countries. LiNK is currently protecting refugees in their underground shelters in China and Southeast Asia, and their campaign, TheHundred, is helping refugees escape China through the underground network. When I watch this video of Ki-Won, I cannot help but think about my late father-in-law. Close in age and born in the same homeland, but such drastically different lives. Had he not been able to escape, my father-in-law would have likely faced a similar fate. Instead, he lived in freedom with his wife and two kids in America.
North Korean refugees are often severely traumatized after leaving lives of ultimate rigidity and suddenly finding themselves exposed to the disconcerting openness they experience once outside of North Korea. These are people who find themselves lost and easily victimized by traffickers and those who seek to exploit their vulnerabilities.
As North Korea's economy continues to plummet and the food situation worsens, the number of people trying to escape will increase. It will be the bravest but most dangerous thing these people will do. The risk they will undertake cannot be understated—stories of those repatriated after escaping are abundant and devastating. With the help of organizations like LiNK, North Korean escapees have a chance to live in freedom one day. Otherwise, these brave souls may be forever destined to live in the shadows with no rights and no identity.
My father-in-law Won Ryul Song never returned to Pyongyang during his lifetime and never wanted to. He said he didn't want to see what they [the North Korean regime] had done to his homeland. But he never gave up hope that his people both inside North Korea and living along the border will one day know freedom.