News / Asia

Christian Missionaries Go Online to Help North Korean Refugees in China

Pastor Chun Ki-won of the Durihana Church in Seoul goes online to help North Korean women who have become the victims of human traffickers in China.
Pastor Chun Ki-won of the Durihana Church in Seoul goes online to help North Korean women who have become the victims of human traffickers in China.

North Koreans continue to flee their impoverished homeland in search of food and to escape political oppression. Christian missionaries have been at the forefront of the effort to bring these defectors to South Korea. But the work is difficult because of China's crackdown on those who enter the country illegally. Now, some activists have taken their rescue effort online.

Man with a mission

Pastor Chun Ki-won goes online as soon as he arrives at his office at the Durihana Church in Seoul.

He is trying to get in contact with a young woman named Sung-hee.

Chun opens up a web-cam chat program and clicks on Sung-hee's name on his list of contacts. On his screen appears a young woman, with long dark hair, wearing a black and white tank top.

Chun explains that Sung-hee is a North Korean refugee who is being held inside a house somewhere in northeast China. He is trying to help her escape and come to South Korea.

He says Sung-hee became the victim of human traffickers after she left North Korea a year ago.

Forced to strip


Chun says when she was on the border with China, some men bribed the border guard to sneak her across. They told her they would help her earn money and that she would work for a computer company. But she ended up locked in this house and is forced to strip for an online pornography site.

Chun says Sung-hee's story is typical of many North Korean women who cross into China.

Human rights groups say many are picked up by human traffickers. Some are sold for just a few hundred dollars to Chinese men as brides. Others are put to work in the sex trade.

Because China repatriates North Koreans who enter the country illegally, activists like Pastor Chun say it is becoming harder for missionaries and other aid workers to reach those in need.

He says that is why he has taken his rescue effort online.

Online pornography

Chun says, years ago in China it was easy to meet North Korean women anywhere on the streets. But these days it is too dangerous for them to go out, so they just stay inside and go on the Internet. Also, much of the sex work they are forced into is online.

The defectors hear about Chun's church in newspapers or by word of mouth. The Durihana church supports a team of undercover missionaries in China. They run a network of safe houses all the way to Southeast Asia, where it is easier for North Korean to seek asylum.

Chun says his church has brought 900 North Koreans to South Korea over the past 11 years.

Hannah's story

One defector Chun helped escape from China is a 30-year-old woman who asked to be called Hannah.

Like many North Korean defectors, she crossed the border many times. But one time, the police caught her and she was sent to a North Korean prison camp.

Hannah describes what happened to her there.

She says she was kept in a small room at the prison with some North Korean officers, who kicked and beat her with a belt. Hannah says they called her a prostitute. Whenever she spoke, they hit her more.

Hannah eventually escaped North Korea again and got in touch with Chun's missionaries in China.

Chun says Hannah was lucky to get out alive. Defection can be punishable by death in North Korea. He also says women who are repatriated often face more punishment than men.

Chun says, if a woman is pregnant when she is returned, she could go to jail for the rest of her life and be tortured. A pregnant woman will be forced to have an abortion. Prison officials will hit her and give her drugs to cause her to abort.

Chun says, for these reasons, he tries to help as many North Korean women as possible come to South Korea, so their lives are no longer at risk in China.

Chun continues his chat with Sung-hee.

Chun types to her that he can bring her to South Korea in the next 10 days.

Not ready for rescue

But Sung-hee replies she is not ready to go yet.

Chun says she is reluctant to go because she still thinks she will get money for her work. Chun says she does not understand that people in her situation never actually get paid by human traffickers.

Chun says he will dispatch missionaries to her home soon. But he says, it is up to her to decide whether to come to South Korea.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid