Forging Ahead: Into the Garbage - North Korean Refugee's Story

First of all, we want to thank each and every one of you who donated to Crossing Borders in 2014. We were able to take in three North Korean refugees because of the generosity of our donors in 2014. We will look to add even more people to our care this year. Here is the story of one person we took in:

Sook-hee lived with her husband and daughter in a North Korean mining town. After her husband died in an accident in North Korea, she had no means of supporting herself and her daughter. She decided to take the dangerous journey to China to find work.

Crossing Borders has never encountered a North Korean refugee who has lived in China for longer than Sook-hee. She has been in China for about 20 years, which means that she was one of the first to flee to China during the Great North Korean Famine.

Sook-hee was sold to her current husband who is severely disabled from a fishing accident. He does not have arms and is blind because of an explosion on his fishing boat. She was told her husband was severely disabled by her traffickers but was offered no alternative.

She and her husband live in Northeast China in utter poverty. They scour their city everyday looking for garbage they could exchange for money. They live on just $50 per month, which is considered extremely poor for her area. Their resources are even more stretched because they have a teenage son.

A few years ago, Sook-hee found out that her daughter in North Korea died. Her daughter was 11-years-old when Sook-hee left. She found out about her daughter’s death when she received a picture of her daughter’s famished body. Sook-hee had been saving money to bring her daughter to China.

When we first told her that we could help her, she was suspicious.

“I can’t join your church because I have no money,” she said. There is an acute distrust of Christians in her city because there have been cults and other churches in the area who have swindled money from the people there.

During our staff’s lunch meeting with her, Sook-hee was very uncomfortable and was not able to eat anything besides vegetables and rice. She repeatedly asked what she needed to do to receive the aid but we assured her that she didn’t need to do anything.

For the first time in her life, Sook-hee was being offered a helping hand. The concept was so foreign to her that she didn’t know what to do.

In addition to her abject poverty, Sook-hee, as a North Korean refugee, is an illegal immigrant of China. When she collects garbage with her husband, she has to watch out for any potential threats to both herself because of her legal status and her husband because he is blind.

We hope that, through our aid, she will be able to feel the love, security and compassion of God.

Thank you to all of you who are involved in her restoration.