A new way to help North Korean refugees

The fate of thousands of North Korean refugees rests on our ability to expose new people to our work. The more people know about what we do, the more people will act on behalf of North Korean refugees in China. And when more and more people act, the more and more North Korean refugees and their children we can help in Northeast China. Our goals for the rest of the year are simple.Think 20/30/40. We want to:

Visit 20 churches. Get 30 people from each of these churches to donate $40 per month.

Already we have scheduled several church visits to get the word out about the plight of the North Korean refugee in China. When the information gets out, we are confident that the ripple effects will be immense.

Each dollar will:

Improve quality of life through poverty alleviation, education and micro-loans

Foster spiritual healing through community building and Biblical counseling

Win freedom along the Modern Day Underground Railroad

We’ve seen the powerful effects when churches and communities engage in our work. Not only is it a blessing to the people we help, it’s a blessing to them.

If you are interested in inviting a Crossing Borders representative to your church, fellowship or community group, please email us at

Next Steps: Planning for the future

Crossing Borders started Second Wave in September of 2004 to address the needs of children who were born to North Korean mothers and abandoned by them. This was in the wake of the Great North Korean Famine, which claimed millions of lives in North Korea and caused hundreds of thousands of refugees to spill over into China. When we started Second Wave, the average age of our children was about 5. This year the average age of the children in Second Wave entered into its teens at 13. Over the years our goal has always been to show the compassion of Christ to these children but this can take many forms. Is it enough to house them, feed them, educate them, and love them or do we need to do more?

As we look into the, now, very near future, we have set some priorities for our organization and our children. The skill we are focused on teaching these children is goal setting. We will know that we are achieving this organizational priority when more of the children in our network have clear career paths with short and mid term milestones to attain them.

This summer a team from the US traveled to Northeast China to address the spiritual and emotional needs of our children in a summer camp program, which lasted about a week. At this camp we had our first ever career seminar.

We had each of our children list their interests and talents and we had them map these on a matrix. From this matrix we were able to tell our children what types of jobs they were best suited for. Our intention was not to lock them into a specific career path but rather to get them thinking about what they might want to do when they finish their education.

We also had a seminar on how to set long term goals and then set short term goals on how to reach these long term goals. This winter we will host another seminar for these children where they will set a long term career goal for themselves and set smaller milestones on how to reach these goals. But, we are not under the delusion that this is our most important task. Most of us are parents and we know better.

Parenting is a grind. It is a selfless task that bears fruit -- good or bad -- decades later. As we raise these children, it is not our ultimate goal to have all of the children in our network employed by a certain date. It is also not our goal to only love them and nurture them for now. Raising children is challenging because parents have to think of both now and decades later.

What good is preparing someone for a good job if they lack character? How empty is a life filled with money and security if it lacks love?

Each day we carry our work forward with this in mind, asking God for grace for the things we might overlook.

Update: A North Korean Refugee’s New Life in Seoul

We posted earlier about a refugee we were supporting in China. We refer to her as “Bo-ah.” Bo-ah spent years working in Chinese restaurants hoping to both make a living and to receive training in the restaurant industry. She hoped to open her own restaurant one day.

These hopes deteriorated over the course of three years. Bo-ah’s employers knew she was a North Korean refugee but said they would pay her a reduced salary. Her pay became less and less frequent as time went on and eventually she wasn’t being paid at all.

This is on top of the fact that she was a North Korean refugee in China. She had to watch out for police who could send her back to North Korea where she would be sent to a prison camp and possibly executed.

Bo-ah had no legal recourse to recover the money she worked so hard for.

She made the difficult decision to take the Modern Day Underground Railroad to Southeast Asia to gain refugee status in South Korea.

But in South Korea, Bo-ah’s struggles continued. She had the equivalent of a 3rd grade education in North Korea but she was in her early 20s.

Bo-ah has climbed back and has finished her high-school education and will be attending college in the fall.

When North Koreans began to pour into South Korea in the late 90s, the population struggled. They had a hard time adjusting to the advanced culture in South Korea and many suffered from depression from the things they experienced both in North Korea and China.

Though these struggles still persist, there have been many success stories. The average income for this population has gone up and the people appear to be adjusting, an expert familiar with the population in Seoul told us.

One of the biggest hurdles for these people to overcome is discrimination. The two Koreas have been at odds for over 60 years now and each side has demonized the other. In the 80s, one could be arrested in South Korea if they spoke with a North Korean accent.

The North Korean accent is distinct from that of the South and people can easily be identified as North Korean by the way they speak. But many North Koreans have learned the new accent. They have learned the new phrases and terms that are commonly used in South Korea. As a result, they have been able to blend in much better.

Many co-workers of North Korean refugees do not know that they have come from the North.

Perception is also changing about North Korean refugees in South Korea. South Korea now airs a television show whose title roughly translates to “ Now On My Way to Meet You,” which focuses on humanizing North Korean refugees living in Seoul. It has become popular and has effectively shifted the perception about North Koreans to many South Korean watchers.

Bo-ah and many of the 27,000 refugees who have made it to South Korea are now on the road to recovery. Yes, there are horror stories and successes but on the whole they are on the rise.

In 2011, it was estimated that North Korean refugees send about $11 million in remittances back to North Korea in a very reliable money transfer system.

Though this population carries much pain and heartache, they are beginning to show signs of growth and improvement.

We see these early refugees not only as survivors with an iron will, they are pioneers who are forging a new way to freedom for the many who will dare follow their lead.

Click here to provide life-giving support North Korean refugees in China through Crossing Borders.