Prayer for North Korean Orphans: Hardly a Chance

Please pray with us as we serve North Korean orphans while navigating through the difficulties and frustrations of Chinese government's bureaucracy. We have written in the past about how urgent the situation is with the half-North Korean, half-Chinese population - the North Korean orphans, stateless children - we serve in China. While China has made some concessions to accommodate this population, their system of bribes and corruption has made it almost impossible for most children to pull themselves out of poverty.

In China a child does not have access to education, health care or any government service unless he has legal identification. China now allows stateless, North Korean orphans to legally register and receive an ID, but, as we will explain, laws are not straightforward in China.

For a stateless child to receive legal identification, he must pass through three official Chinese offices:

First, the child must get an official document to prove their father is indeed a Chinese citizen. This can be obtained in most hospitals and in rare cases at an office of record keeping.

Second, the North Korean orphan must go to the police bureau and obtain proof that his mother was taken by the Chinese police and sent back to North Korea. The child can also make the argument that his mother has escaped to South Korea but in our experience it is much easier to pass through the police requirement if the mother was actually sent back to North Korea.

Let’s be clear about what this means. In order for a stateless child to obtain legal status, he must prove that his mother was sent back to North Korea where she will be put in a gulag and potentially executed. Earlier this year Yonhap News, a South Korean wire service, reported that four such people were publicly executed.

The last and most difficult hurdle comes at the end, after the child has gone through the first two steps. A stateless child must take his case to the Family Registration Department where, if the child can show proof of paternal citizenship and maternal arrest, he should be granted a legal ID. But this is not how things work in China. A bribe of 3,000 to 5,000 RMB ($475 to $793 at today’s exchange rate) is necessary to complete this step. There is no receipt for this fee and there is no official record of it.

For there to be any substantial improvements in the lives of North Korean orphans, change must come at a systemic level. And with China’s one-party, pseudo-totalitarian government, we are not holding our breath. This is why we firmly believe that outside intervention is necessary for these children to have a shot.

Please pray for us as we continue to navigate the confusing, ever-changing bureaucratic muddle of China on behalf of our North Korean orphans.