Crossing Borders FAQ
How do you operate in China?
We have missionaries who oversee our staff of local Korean-Chinese workers who directly administer our care. Our missionaries make regular visits to each woman and child in our network. We also have directors and staff from the US making regular visits to our refugees and orphans.
What do the refugees in your network want? Do they want to leave China? Do they want to stay? Do they want to return to North Korea?
It depends. We’ve sent many refugees through the Underground Railroad to freedom in South Korea and the US. We also help a good number of refugees who want to stay in China.
We think South Korea is a good option for the refugees because of many reasons (government help, language, etc.) but it isn’t always the best. Many refugees are still married to the men who purchased them. Many have children. It is a difficult option for these women to choose to take the Underground Railroad because of the risks. If they are caught along the way, they will be sent back to North Korea and face execution. If they have children or loved ones in China, it’s difficult for them to risk their lives by taking the Underground Railroad.
Is it safe for Crossing Borders to operate in China?
Safety is a relative term. We have never had any arrests of our staff in China because of our security measures. We never relax these security measures and because of this, we have been able to maintain our operations on the field.
The Chinese government is constantly trying to break down networks such as ours. We must stay vigilant for the possibility of the Chinese government finding out about our whereabouts in China and then taking action. But even in this case, we have contingency plans for our work to continue.
Do you think it's morally right to break the law in China?
In Luke 14, Jesus was asked if it was lawful for him to heal on the Sabbath. You have to remember that obeying the Sabbath was not only religious law but it was also the law of the land. It was a big deal.
Jesus, in v. 5 says, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” What he was saying was that life was more important than the laws because the point of the law was to bring life.
This is why we believe it is morally acceptable for us to operate in China illegally. The human rights crisis is so severe, we have to do something about it or people will die.
Is Crossing Borders involved with any political initiatives in the U.S.?
For the safety of our staff on the field, we do not participate in any political activities, though we do have relationships with politicians and people in the State Department.
How do you find North Korean refugees in China?
We find them through the ethnic-Korean Church in China. In Northeast China, ethnic Koreans number about 2 million. They own businesses and live in certain neighborhoods together. North Koreans often look to ethnic Koreans for help, whether it be from Korean businesses or ethnically Korean neighbors. Crossing Borders partners with Korean churches in the area. When a partnering church identifies a North Korean, they call us and we work together to care for these refugees.
How many refugees are in China now?
Because there is no official way to take a census on the number of North Korean refugees in China, no perfectly accurate number exists. Estimates have varied, ranging from 60,000 to 300,000 North Korean refugees hiding in China. Crossing Borders uses the number 200,000 in our materials.
What is your goal for these refugees?
Our goal is to simply help them do what they want to do. For some it is to take the Underground Railroad to receive refugee status in South Korea or other countries. For others it is to stay safe in China.
Whichever path they choose, we also make it a point to share our faith with them. We believe that the path to true healing and peace is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. However, we do not force any of the people we serve to believe what we believe in order to receive our help.
Do you have safe houses for these refugees?
Yes and no. When people think “safe houses,” they often think of large, secure buildings where people are herded together. We do not do this. Rather, we keep our refugees in small homes and apartments scattered around Northeast China. It is dangerous for North Koreans to gather in one central location.
How does Crossing Borders help orphans? Do you have one large orphanage?
Crossing Borders helps our orphans in two ways:
Group homes: we have group homes where we provide holistic care for these children. These homes have about 10 children each.
With family: we pay for tuition and other educational expenses for other children who live with their fathers or relatives.
So these children have lost their moms, where are their fathers? If they still have fathers, aren’t they technically not orphans?
The UN’s official definition of orphan is a child who has lost one of their parents.
Let’s remember that these North Korean mothers were sold. It is the poorest of the poor in China who need to go to the open market to find a wife. Many of these men are physically disabled. These children are born into abject poverty. When the mother flees or is captured, there usually isn’t an adequate support system to take care of the child. Many of these children are left to relatives or grandparents who do not have the capacity to take care of them.
What is the legal status of these orphans?
Before 2012, these children were considered stateless, meaning, they had no citizenship or legal ID. In 2012, China shifted their laws. If a child is able to prove that he has a Chinese father, was born in China and that his mother was forcibly repatriated back to North Korea, China allows these children to have citizenship.
All but one of our orphans have citizenship.