Christians risking life to help North Koreans escape

A new underground railroad run significantly by Christians has formed to help North Koreans escape their oppressive regime, Hudson Institute senior fellow Melanie Kirkpatrick told The Daily Caller.

“The new underground railroad is a secret network of safe houses and escape routes that carries North Koreans across China to safety in neighboring countries,” Kirkpatrick, author of the new book “Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad,” explained to TheDC. “From there, most go on to South Korea, though a few come to the U.S. or go to Europe or Canada.”

“Two groups of people operate the new underground railroad,” she continued, “brokers, who are in it for the money, and humanitarian workers — especially Christians — who are in it to serve God. It is against Chinese law to assist North Koreans, and anyone who helps them is subject to arrest, prison, and, if he’s a foreigner, expulsion. In ‘Escape from North Korea,’ I profile several American Christians who help. They operate safe houses, they run orphanages, and they lead North Koreans out of China. These people are brave and incredibly inspiring.”

Kirkpatrick says escaping North Korea is no easy task.

“Anyone who wants to escape needs large measures of courage, determination and luck,” she said.

“The only practical escape route is through China — across the Yalu or Tumen River. North Koreans who cross the river to China can be shot in the back by North Korean border guards.”

While Kirkpatrick says North Korea is “the world’s most repressive state,” she explains that the “lowest circle of hell is the gulag, where 200,000 or more North Koreas are incarcerated, often with three generations of their family.”

“They are usually there for political crimes such as possession of a Bible or listening to a foreign radio broadcast,” she said. “Inmates are fed little and worked hard. Many don’t survive long. It’s estimated that at least 1 million North Koreans have died in the gulag.”

Read below TheDC’s full interview with Kirkpatrick on her book, the horrors of North Korea and what the West can do to hasten the fall of the Kim family regime.

Why did you decide to write the book?

During my years at the Wall Street Journal, I covered the story of North Koreans who escaped to China and the Christians and others who helped them there. I couldn’t get their story out of mind. It kept tugging at my heart, and I wanted to bring it to the attention of a broader audience.

The plight of the tens of thousands of North Koreans hiding in China is a humanitarian crisis unknown to most of the world. China’s policy is to track down the North Koreans and send them back to North Korea, where they face horrific punishment, even death. This is a terrible tragedy — and China’s policy is in contravention of its obligations under international treaties it has signed. China needs to meet its international obligations and let the U.N. or other humanitarian organizations help the North Koreans there.

But I also wanted to show the hopeful, and often inspiring, aspects to this story. The North Koreans who reach China, and the smaller number of North Koreans who go on to find sanctuary in free countries, are the future of their country. There are 24,000 North Koreans living in the South now, where they are being exposed to free markets and a democratic political system. Ten years ago there were just half that number.