An organization is helping North Korean refugees escape the brutal regime and make it to a safe country by providing routes, resources, and help from trained rescuers.
While thousands of North Korean refugees have escaped from their home country, they often can’t make it to a safe country, not having the resources to do so.
Liberty in North Korea is bridging this gap.
“We have steadily garnered information about escape routes through China and Southeast Asia and have established relationships with individuals on the ground who can help us move refugees safely across borders,” the website explains.
“The free passage model ensures that refugees are treated with dignity and respect throughout the risky journey, and allows them to begin their new lives in freedom without the burden of broker loans.”
In a recent video shared to Youtube, Liberty in North Korea demonstrates what a real-time rescue mission looks like in North Korea.
The rescue process
“The phone rings,” the narrator begins. “It’s a tip from a trusted source, there is a North Korean refugee in China waiting to make the dangerous journey to freedom.”
The narrator explains that because Chinese authorities arrest refugees from North Korea, the rescue team has to move fast.
“We make contact with the person, telling them to move to a rendezvous point in Northeast China,” the video details. “From here they will join a group of other North Korea refugees, and together they will begin their escape.”
Yet this is only the beginning of their trek. 3,000 miles of foreign land, security check points, and Chinese surveillance stands between their freedom and possible return to North Korea.
“The rescue route is like a modern-day underground railroad. At each leg of the journey, a new partner meets the group and guides them onward.”
The narrator explains that the routes are constantly changing for the refugee routes, because of the impending danger of the Chinese government’s surveillance.
The refugee group also maintains a constant change of pace, travel, and transportation. They switch between trains, buses, cars, boats, and walking. They don’t even stop to eat because due to the danger of being found.
“The most tense moment is usually at the Southern Chinese border. If arrested here, it’s undeniable that these refugees are defecting to South Korea and the punishment that awaits them can be even more severe,” the video explains.
Once the refugees get close to the border, a Liberty in North Korea partner meets them and moves them across the border under the cover of night.
If the refugees make it across the border, they are out of the reach of the Chinese government, but they are not safe yet.
“The refugees trek through wilderness and climb miles of steep mountain terrain. After hours of mosquitos, scorching heat, and suffocating humidity, the group emerges from the jungle”
In the meantime, a team from Liberty in North Korea waits in a safe house in Southeast Asia, for word that the group has reached their final point before their destination.
Once the rescue team receives the message that the refugees are ready, they load up their vehicle and go to the pickup zone. The rescue team only knows vague details of where the refugees are waiting, which they describe via text message.
“Hello,” the rescuers say when they pick up the refugees. “Please hop on quickly before anyone sees us.”
The narrator notes that it is likely that a local has reported the refugees to the local police, so they move away quickly.
“They are finally free for the first time in their lives,” the narrator says. “Some refugees are overwhelmed with emotion, the tears mix with the sweat and caked mud on their cheeks.”
“Others are so exhausted they collapse into a deep sleep,” before they spend time with the Liberty in North Korea staff going over resettlement plans.
They go over things like the process to resettle, the timeline, the benefits, and what challenges to expect.
Before they leave to their final destination, either South Korea or the United States, the field staff lights candles on a cake to celebrate their freedom.
With each new groups celebration and entrance into freedom, there is a new group in China starting their trek.
Tension in North Korea
Restrictions and tensions in North Korea have been growing for years. They are not only known for their hostility toward their general population but especially towards their treatment of Christians.
As previously reported by Faithwire News, the U.S. State Departments most recent congressionally mandated International Religious Freedom report, details that between 80,000 and 120,000 North Korean Christians are currently imprisoned in North Korea.
“The government continued to deal harshly with those who engaged in almost any religious practices through executions, torture, beatings, and arrests,” the report states.
“An estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to be held in the political prison camp system in remote areas under horrific conditions.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, who contributed to the report, noted that “a policy of guilt by association was often applied in cases of detentions of Christians, meaning that the relatives of Christians were also detained regardless of their beliefs.”
“Religious and human rights groups outside the country continued to provide numerous reports that members of underground churches were arrested, beaten, tortured, and killed because of their religious beliefs,” the report continues.
But it just gets worse.
“According to the [Database Center for North Korean Human Rights], there was a report in 2016 of disappearances of persons who were found to be practicing religion within detention facilities. International NGOs and North Korean defectors reported any religious activities conducted outside of those that were state-sanctioned, including praying, singing hymns, and reading the Bible, could lead to severe punishment, including imprisonment in political prison camps.”
While organization like Liberty in North Korea takes action, you can too. You can learn more on how to support the work they do here.
You can also take time to pray each day for those 120,000 imprisoned Christians in North Korea. Pray that their faith will sustain them, and pray for the government, that they would move towards a place that allows religious freedom.