modern day underground railroad

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

Twice a North Korean Refugee

“We never had enough firewood in the winter,” Yae Rin, a North Korean refugee in Crossing Borders' care told us. “My dad and I would go very early in the morning to the mountain and cut down a pine tree to bring home. We would have been in such big trouble if we were caught. When there was enough snow on the ground, we could take a big tree and slide it down the mountain.” Yae Rin is a young woman. She is less than five-feet-tall. She has a bright disposition and innocence about her. It’s hard to tell that she is a North Korean refugee in hiding in China. It is shocking to learn of the hardship she endured growing up in North Korea. Yae Rin crossed the border into China with nothing and subsequently had to live for years with the fear of repatriation by the Chinese government.

In North Korea, Yae Rin and her family shared a house with four other families and struggled to find enough work to eat on a regular basis. “I had to get out, so I planned to cross the border into China. I went to my friend’s house to prepare to leave but somehow my father found out and stopped me. We cried together and I went back home.” But a few days later, Yae Rin crossed the river into China. She hasn’t seen her family since she escaped.

Soon after crossing over into China, Yae Rin was found by a local Christian who took her to an underground church for safety. Countless other North Korean refugee women are trafficked into China from North Korea or found by wrongdoers and sold as wives or prostitutes. Experts estimate the number of North Korean refugees to be in the hundreds-of-thousands, those who have crossed illegally into China since the Great North Korean of the 1990s.

Yae Rin found work in China and Crossing Borders was able to help her with rent and obtain an ID so she could apply for jobs. She would find work at different restaurants, often working 7 days a week. The field staff at Crossing Borders would meet her regularly during this time for encouragement and prayer. Our missionary couple shared many hours during Yae Rin’s time off talking about her past as well as hopes for her future.

After a few years of struggle and weariness, Yae Rin felt ready to go to South Korea. The trip along the Modern Day Underground Railroad to freedom can take weeks. In addition, South Korea requires each North Korean refugee to take several months of reeducation courses before entering mainstream society. Yae Rin made the trip safely and took all the required coursework in South Korea.

This past year, our field staff who shared time caring for Yae Rin in China were able to meet her just outside a subway station soon after she got her own apartment in Seoul. They hugged and wept for a long time out on the street. They went to her new home and prayed to thank God and cried together again.

Yae Rin, now 26 and a North Korean refugee twice over, through the dangers of China and now in the modern day rush of South Korea, shared one of her first thoughts landing at Incheon airport in South Korea. “I’m finally in Korea. I don’t have to worry about hiding.”

Then while on the bus crossing the long bridge into the city in mid-winter she thought, “I wish my family could be with me now.”

Adjusting to a new life provides many challenges for North Korean refugees but Yae Rin shares that she is happy and now she finally has the freedom to fulfill some of her hopes and dreams. Today, Yae Rin is studying hard and has plans to become a nurse. She may never escape the memories of her past but maybe she feels it’s now her turn to do some healing.

Prayer for North Korean Refugees: A Quiet Migration

North Korean refugees have been making their way through China to South Korea for about 15 years. About 27,000 of them have made it through the Modern Day Underground Railroad through Southeast Asia to freedom in South Korea and the rest of the world. But there has been another migration from China to South Korea that has been impacting North Korean refugees in the area. Koreans in China have been migrating to South Korea in droves over the past few years. The Chosun Ilbo recently reported that more than 600,000 Korean Chinese have migrated from China to Korea in 2011. And Bloomberg News reported in 2009 the beginnings of a mass migration of South Korean citizens from China back to their homeland.

This secondary migration has made it even harder for North Korean refugees to hide in the region. There are fewer people who are sympathetic to their needs and fewer members of the underground church to aid them as they seek refuge from the world’s most repressive regime.

Recently, Crossing Borders took in a young girl named “Sunnah”. Sunnah's mother is a North Korean refugee who fled to South Korea through the Underground Railroad. Sunnah and her father were beckoned by her mother to South Korea, where they lived until 2010. In a new country with new possibilities, her mother began to ignore Sunnah and her father. Sunnah's parents began to fight and eventually Sunnah's father returned to a life of poverty in Northeast China, bringing his daughter with him.

To make things worse, Sunnah’s father has a degenerative bone disease. He can no longer walk. They stayed with Sunnah's uncle, who also lived in abject poverty.

Their local underground church was poorly equipped to help because many of their members had moved to South Korea in search of economic opportunities. Our missionaries report rapidly diminishing numbers in congregations of underground churches. Many are left with only the elderly in their congregation.

It was by God’s providence that we met Sunnah and her father through friends of friends. She is being put into a boarding school and is doing better.

Please pray for North Korean refugees in this rapidly changing landscape, many of whom are finding it harder and harder to find help.