We informed you earlier this year that a North Korean refugee, “Bo-ah,” was sent off on the Underground Railroad and was well on her way to freedom. Recently, she contacted Crossing Borders and said that she made it to South Korea. She has been through re-education training at South Korea’s school for refugees, Hanawon. Now she is living in Seoul with another North Korean defector. Bo-ah crossed several borders, traversed rivers, climbed mountains and traveled in danger to make it to South Korea. She said that she felt our prayers as she fought her way to freedom.
Bo-ah’s struggles aren’t complete, though she has made it to South Korea. South Korea is now home to more than 25,000 North Korean defectors and many find it difficult to adjust to the modern lifestyle and capitalist society.
Seoul can be overwhelming for the former people of North Korea, people from a country that lives in relative simplicity compared to their southern counterpart. Some North Koreans even share that they are startled by their appliances, which can speak to them. Others are disoriented by the lights. North Korea, with its lack of electricity, becomes pitch black at night.
Though Bo-ah tells us that she is doing fine, she has shared some significant barriers she now has in South Korea. First, because her education in North Korea was only through the third grade. Second, she still longs to reunite with her family.
Just ten years ago, when a North Korean moved to South Korea, it was like they were saying goodbye to your family forever. Today, this is not the case. Through couriers that operate in China and North Korea, defectors like Bo-ah can send messages, money and other items to their remaining relatives.
Andrei Lankov, one of the world’s most respected scholars on North Korea, wrote that 49 percent of all North Korean defectors send money back home through illegal channels. Many send money to get their families out of the country.
Though Bo-ah would like to purchase freedom for her family, she doesn’t have the means nor does she have the education to get a higher-paying job to pay for it.
Until then, she chips away at her studies hoping that one day she will be reunited with her family. Please pray for Bo-ah and the thousands of other refugees who long to see their loved-ones again. Pray for her as she goes to school and church that she would find hope in Christ, despite the sadness of missing her family.