North Korean Defectors: Update on Bo-ah

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.

Prayer for North Korean Refugees: Being Illegal

Today members of the US Senate proposed a bill that would eventually lead to provisions for many illegal immigrants to be granted citizenship. President Obama will supposedly follow suit with his own plan tomorrow. While immigration has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill for the last 10 years, North Korean refugees have lived in constant fear with no hope for any reform. Though China signed the UN Refugee Convention in 1951, they have not fully abided by it.

A cornerstone to this Convention is the concept of non-refoulement, which guarantees that the host country will not send a refugee back to their home country. China has been forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees since the late ‘90s.

This has lead to devastating consequences for North Korean refugees seeking food and freedom in China. We minister to children who have witnessed their mothers being hauled away by the police. We cry with the women who have been sold to abusive husbands and treated like livestock by their families. We hid in a closet with a half-North Korean, half-Chinese child because the police were actively searching for North Korean refugees in 2006. We held the hands of North Korean refugees as they traversed rough terrain on the Asian Underground Railroad in search for freedom.

The reason Crossing Borders exists is to help North Korean refugees who are in fear of forced repatriation. If China was abiding by the 1951 Convention, there would be little need for our help. But this is what the church is built for, to provide justice for those who cannot attain it for themselves.

Please pray this week for this dark situation and the people trapped in it. And please continue to pray for Crossing Borders and groups like us that we may continue to provide shelter for those in need.