About Crossing Borders
Crossing Borders was established in 2003 by several Christians of Korean and Chinese descent who felt a burden for the North Korean people during a time of severe famine and starvation. During and following the Great North Korean Famine from 1995 to 1998, there has been a large exodus of refugees from the country.
Abuse of North Korean refugees in China is rampant as they are labeled illegal economic migrants. North Koreans in hiding in China have no human rights or legal protection. There are no laws protecting North Koreans from exploitation, trafficking, or even murder. Chinese authorities actively seek out vulnerable North Korean refugees to be repatriated and sent to labor camps where they will face execution. It is believed that there are currently 200,000 North Korean refugees in China. Approximately 70 percent of these refugees are women, and 80 percent of these women are trafficked through black markets for North Korean brides.
The mission of Crossing Borders is to show the compassion of Christ to North Koreans and their children.
Crossing Borders is a Christian, faith-based 501(c)3 non-profit that offers assistance to North Korean refugees and their children whether or not they accept the same religious beliefs.
Meet the Crossing Borders DIrectors
Executive Director, Co-Founder
Dan founded Crossing Borders with his longtime friend, Mike Kim, in 2003. Both Mike and Dan have worked in the United States and in China to help North Korean refugees find safety and security. Dan helped to develop Crossing Borders into the non-profit it is today, making it capable of providing the funding and manpower to execute work in China.
In addition to having been on the field with North Korean refugees personally, Dan is one of the foremost experts on the North Korean refugee crisis, with relationships with both organizations and scholars researching the ongoing developments of the Korean Peninsula. Dan’s article for the Washington Post, written on the plight of the North Korean refugee, can be read here.
He became the Executive Director of Crossing Borders in 2012 and began to lead the effort to develop the organization’s functions and objectives in the United States. Dan leads the oversight and planning of missions projects from the States, facilitating fundraising and organizing staff to work in China with North Korean refugees and to spread awareness on the ongoing refugee crisis. Dan is a husband, father and a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs.
Co-Founder, Board Member
When Mike visited Northeast China to see the ongoing missions work with North Korean refugees, he did not realize that the impact of seeing and working with the men and women in hiding would convict him to leave a business in financial planning, pack his bags, and buy a one-way ticket to China in 2003.
When operations began, Crossing Borders worked on various programs to help North Korean refugees. Mike, who founded Crossing Borders with Dan Chung, worked undercover in Northeast China and even visited North Korea. While living in China, he secretly helped North Korean refugees cross international borders and smuggled refugees into embassies in the country. For the safety of the organization, Crossing Borders refocused its work on helping North Koreans along the border with aid in 2004. On his spare time, Mike enjoys practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and spending time with his wife.
Mike returned to the United States and now serves as a board member for the organization, helping shape its ongoing mission and contributing through oversight. Mike has also spoken internationally to spread awareness on the North Korean refugee crisis. Mike’s interview with Jon Stewart in 2009 can be found here. His interview with Larry Kane can also be viewed here.
Mike Kim collected and published his memoirs on the work of Crossing Borders and the North Korean refugee crisis in 2008.
The book is called Escaping North Korea: Defiance and Hope in the World's Most Repressive Country.
Prior to becoming a member of Crossing Borders’ Board of Directors, Sunnah Kim traveled to China to meet North Korean refugees in Crossing Borders’ network. Visiting several of our shelters, Sunnah administered medical check-ups and helped assess the health of the women and children in our care. Currently, Sunnah serves as an advisory board member who provides insight and direction for Crossing Borders as an organization in the United States and overseas.
Sunnah is the Senior Director of Pediatric Practice and Health Care Delivery at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a national non-profit professional membership organization of 67,000 pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical subspecialists that has a primary mission focused on the optimal health of all children. She provides administrative oversight to a number of federally funded grant projects, leads efforts to increase youth and family engagement, and oversees work related to the management and delivery of care in pediatric primary care settings. Her background and current professional expertise in providing accountability and oversight is a valuable asset to Crossing Borders. Sunnah is also a wife and mother of three children, a pediatric nurse practitioner by training, and a proud alumni of the University of Michigan.
The other members of our board cannot publicly identify themselves due to security concerns.
Crossing Borders’ Story
Crossing Borders did not start with any fanfare. It did not have the backing of many people. It wasn’t even an official organization for an entire year. It was simply two college roommates who had no idea what a North Korean refugee was. Mike Kim went on a trip to China in 2001 to explore what was happening in the Underground Church. He was expecting to find people who were genuine about their faith. He was prepared to see hushed worship services happening despite intense persecution. What he did not expect to find was North Korean refugees.
Mike flew back to America rattled by what he saw and heard. When he told his friend Dan Chung, a new determination was born. Crossing Borders rallied around a simple statement: “We have to do something.” Dan and Mike began to meet regularly. Others joined them. On January 1, 2003, Mike packed his bags and headed out to China. This is what Crossing Borders considers its official start date.
Since this time, Crossing Borders has gone on to help over 1,000 North Korean refugees and orphans. Since its founding in 2003, Crossing Borders has developed and transformed with the shifting political and societal circumstances in Northeast China.