China prepares refugee camps amid growing tensions in North Korea

A propaganda slogan and portraits of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (R) and his father and founder of North Korea Kim Il Sung (L) are seen in a North Korean village on the banks of the Tumen river, which is seen from the Chinese side in Tumen, China, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

A propaganda slogan and portraits of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (R) and his father and founder of North Korea Kim Il Sung (L) are seen in a North Korean village on the banks of the Tumen river, which is seen from the Chinese side in Tumen, China, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Despite a long history of refugee policy reporting any North Koreans back to almost certain imprisonment or death, China is now constructing refugee camps along

The camps, located in provinces nearby China’s iconic but porous border with North Korea – the Tumen River – are expected to house thousands of migrants.

The construction, amid increasing volatility and international pressure in the region, represents a shift in policy for the long-time ally of the hermit kingdom.

Though officials from Changbai County declined to comment, the leaked documents from state-owned telecommunications company China Mobile document inspections of internet connectivity.

“Because the situation on the China-North Korea border has intensified lately, Changbai County government plans to set up five refugee sites in Changbai,” China Mobile said in the document.

Generosity is Contagious

North Korean refugee women at one of their gatherings.

North Korean refugee women at one of their gatherings.

Crossing Borders has been a witness to the power of community. We believe that no one person can positively change the lives of North Korean refugees more than themselves. This has shown itself to be true over and over again in the lives of the refugees in our network.

This fall, a woman in one of our communities had a son whose shoes were badly worn. He is currently in seventh grade and is extremely active. His shoes bore the burden of this activity. His soles were almost worn right through.

When North Korean women are sold to Chinese men, they are usually sold to the poorest of the poor. They are sold to men with very low social and economic standing who otherwise could not find a wife for themselves.

All of the women in our network live in abject poverty with few resources within the family and even fewer that are entrusted to them by their families, which is why this mother could not afford shoes for her son.

North Korean refugees are all running from an even deeper state of poverty. By enduring one of the worst modern-day famines, many North Korean women have been conditioned to take what they can and give only when it has a direct benefit for themselves.

“Normally, these women only know how to steal or grab everything quickly before others,” one of our field workers stated in a recent report.

This is why it was such an amazing occurrence to see this community of about 10 women come together to experience the joy of giving by pooling their money together to purchase shoes for this boy.

Generosity is contagious. Refugees who have received the generosity of so many from the US and around the world and are beginning to return it back to their communities. This was evident when a group of community members worked to restore the sight of a blind refugee last year.  Or when a North Korean refugee who escaped to China, mobilized a clothing drive for the refugee women still in China, as chronicled in our latest annual report.

Many of you reading this give so that these women can meet and have a life outside of fear. What you are giving them is much more. You are giving them the will to care for others.

Defectors with Chinese papers face obstacles in South Korea

  Kim Seok-cheol with a photograph from 1981 in which he is flanked by two friends in Sariwon, North Korea. Credit Jean Chung for The New York Times

 

Kim Seok-cheol with a photograph from 1981 in which he is flanked by two friends in Sariwon, North Korea. Credit Jean Chung for The New York Times

Though the path to entry into South Korea and official refugee status often passes through China, for those who have papers designating them Chinese citizens, the end destination is often blocked.

Kim Seok Cheol, a 52-year-old man who escaped with his family over three decades ago, has been stuck in a country he only intended to stay in temporarily. 

“I never felt I truly belonged in China,” Mr. Kim said. “Chinese was still a foreign language to me. And I had to give gifts, like expensive bottles of liquor, to officials who could cause trouble for me by exposing that I was a North Korean.”

Because of Kim's Chinese passport and nationality -- obtained through a bribe his father orchestrated -- the South Korean government does not accept Kim's claims of being a defector. 

The status afforded to all North Korean defectors as citizens of the Korean Peninsula, as decreed in the Southern neighbor's constitution, is withheld for those with Chinese papers--even if they're fake. 

read the full story here: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/09/world/asia/north-korean-defector-south-korea-kim-seok-cheol.html