In China is a family of North Korean refugees and orphans we help. “Ha Neul,” lives with her cousin and father in the countryside of Northeast China. Her father has a degenerative bone disorder that prevents him from working on his farm for very long. This family leads a poor and desperate life. Their house was described by one of our missionaries as “filthy.” Ha Neul’s father comes from poverty and because of his disabilities, it was virtually impossible for him to find a wife. China’s One Child Policy has left the country with a severe gender imbalance. It is because of this imbalance that North Korean refugees are trafficked heavily in the country. So Ha Neul’s father went to the open market in Northeast China in the early 2000s to purchase a wife.
Though some women are treated brutally by their purchasers, Ha Neul’s father treated his wife well. They lived happily in the countryside for a time. However, Ha Neul, as many North Korean refugee women, was captured by the police and sent back to North Korea. She has not been heard from since.
Ha Neul’s father tries his best to provide for his daughter but the numbers cannot add up. What little he makes from his farm goes to service his debts. Very little is left over to provide for his half North Korean, half Chinese child, who, until very recently, was not able to obtain a legal ID so she could go to school or obtain medical care. The cards are stacked against Ha Neul and the tens of thousands of families who are in situations like hers.
Crossing Borders is now considering more sustainable options to help North Korean refugees and their families.
For 10 years, we have been providing aid to these communities. But as the landscape has changed in China and North Korea, we feel the need to change along with it.
When we first landed in Northeast China, the situation was dire and immediate aid was necessary. But today, the situation has stabilized. The food situation in North Korea is still unstable but not nearly as horrific as the '90s in the Great North Korean Famine.
What we need now are sustainable models of building infrastructure in the lives of North Korean refugees, to especially be better equipped to help North Korean refugees should the nation of North Korea destabilize or experience another famine. In other words, we need to help Ha Neul’s father support himself and his family instead of simply giving him the aid to help his child.
We are considering several models to help North Korean refugees and their families but the most important thing is to be thoughtful and prayerful about this as we proceed. We know the best plans can fall apart in the blink of an eye if we are not careful.
Please pray with us as we consider how we can help North Korean refugees and those they care for as they continue to pour across the border for help.