Guest / Limited Access /

North Korean refugees rarely tell their stories. They are too busy ducking, whispering, and running.

The wrong word finding its way to the wrong person could be disastrous. As a North Korean woman attending university in South Korea explained, "I fear my family will be harmed if I speak."

In July, more than 430 North Koreans were airlifted to Seoul from an undisclosed Southeast Asian nation, possibly Vietnam. News reports called it the largest-ever movement of refugees into South Korea. Seoul is normally wary of accepting North Korean defectors for political and economic reasons, but apparently officials helped pave the way for these refugees.

The number of defectors from North Korea to South Korea has been steadily growing, according to news reports. Last year, it reached 1,285. It was 1,140 in 2002 and 583 in 2001. As many as 30 Koreans sought asylum with the United States over the past decade.

No one knows with certainty, but an estimated 300,000 North Korean refugees may now be hiding in China. As a North Korean ally, however, the Chinese government pays informants 500 yuan (US$62) to track down these refugees.

China marches 5,000 North Korean defectors a month back to their country across the Tuen Bridge in the northwestern Jilin Province, sometimes with wire passed through wrist and nose, according to rights groups.

"The police beat us," a 2002 victim told Voice of the Martyrs. "Some had their heads cracked open, some had their teeth broken, and some could not walk again because their arms and legs were so injured."

To avoid political confrontation directly with North Korea, regional democratic countries like Japan receive defectors in their China-based embassies, then reroute them to a third country. Nearly 3,000 North ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Jon Warren: Eyewitness to Suffering
Part 2 of 5 in our series on Christian photojournalists.
RecommendedWhy Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Regardless of court fight’s final outcome, fewer persecuted Christians will make it to America under president’s plan.
TrendingTrump Adviser’s Megachurch Withholds Major Donation from SBC
Trump Adviser’s Megachurch Withholds Major Donation from SBC
Prestonwood Baptist diverts denominational giving over concerns about Russell Moore’s ERLC.
Editor's PickThe Title IX Lives of Christian Colleges
The Title IX Lives of Christian Colleges
Why CCCU schools are split on claiming one of their legal rights.
Christianity Today
A Heartless Homeland
hide thisOctober October

In the Magazine

October 2004

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.