I Saw the Movie "Seoul Train." I Really Want to Help People Escape North Korea Via the Underground Railroad so They Can Find Freedom and Happiness in South Korea.
Perhaps God has put North Korea on your heart but you are confused about the best way to help. Here are some questions we frequently receive at VOM Korea, along with our most heartfelt and deeply researched guidance in response.
It seems obvious that North Koreans would be better off in South Korea than North Korea, and on the face of it that’s certainly true. But as surprising as it sounds at first, defection projects don’t tend to solve problems as much as they do transfer them and create new and typically more complex problems.
Consider that the relatives of defectors left behind in North Korea are typically punished, often severely, for the “transgression” of defection. This punishment is not limited to immediate family members either: extended family members can be branded as suspect, and not only at present but for generations to come. This means reduced access to food, jobs, and education, as well as possible interment in a labor or concentration camp. It also raises the opportunity for the government and gangs to extort the defector to send money for the relative to be released from prison—a very common occurrence for defectors living in South Korea.
Defection also frequently leaves behind children, such as those born to North Korean women sold into slavery in China. Such children then lack citizenship in either North Korea or China and cannot be legally adopted. Their education, health, and prospects for happiness in life plunge to near zero.
So why not just solve these problems by having whole families defect, including children? Mass defections are rarely successful, since it’s difficult for the planning of such an intricate project not to come to the attention of the government before the defection attempt can proceed. Even if the group escapes to China, the likelihood of their being caught increases when children, the aged, the infirm, or sheer numbers of people are involved.
Finally, the rate of death due to suicide of North Korean defectors in South Korea is among the highest of any population in the world: more than 16 percent. So while it’s understandable to think that escaping North Korea for South means happiness ever after, it actually means death for an agonizingly large number of people.
The challenges faced by North Koreans can’t be solved simply by relocation. Comprehensive solutions are needed, and such solutions are effective only to the degree that they address the whole person: mind, body, and spirit.
Do you have other questions on North Korea? Write us and we’ll be happy to reply!