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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

Al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs