Students interested in helping solve the humanitarian crisis in North Korea have started a UC Merced chapter of LiNK (Liberty in North Korea), a nationwide organization of clubs dedicated to this cause. Club meetings are slated to begin in the spring semester, when the club will be fully formed.
Interest in the North Korean crisis has grown recently as more information about the regime leaks to the public. The lack of fundamental freedoms, such as the rights to speech, assembly, and press, mean that North Koreans have highly restricted or even no access to outside information.
The political internment camps in the country, which have been open for longer than the German concentration camps of World War II, keep over 200,000 “wrong-doers” and “wrong-thinkers” in a state of suspended personhood, where they may be beaten, raped, and killed at the whim of those who run the camps. Citizens outside the camps face starvation and a total lack of healthcare which has left many physically and mentally impaired.
Those who manage to flee the regime may go to China, where they face an unsympathetic government which often returns captured refugees to the North Korean government. Often these refugees are tortured and executed as punishment and an example to others. Female refugees face the special problem of sex trafficking.
These are some of the problems which students Jeshua Hopson and Molly Radoye hope to help solve with their organization’s chapter. The goals of the chapter are to raise awareness for the crisis and to gain funding for necessary operations there. The concrete goal for the UC Merced chapter is to raise enough to rescue at least 1 person per year, a cost of roughly $2500. The officers of the club include Hopson, the President, and Radoye, the Vice President, alongside Treasurer William Caldeira, Secretary Kiya Leake, and fundraising coordinator Katie Teresi.
On a national level, LiNK gives presentations, called “screenings,” all over the United States to educate people about the state of affairs in North Korea. Screenings often include documentaries of the human rights violations and the ways in which the organization has helped those in need there. The most common way is assistance in relocating; the documentary “Hiding” includes personal stories and first hand accounts of rescue operations of North Korean refugees.
For those who wish to be involved, Molly and Jeshua have this to say:
“The crisis in North Korea is not something to be taken lightly, and we need as many people as possible to work together to raise awareness and help combat the human rights violations that are happening daily. Once people realize what’s going on there, they’ll see what a problem it is; part of the problem is that Kim Jong Il has done a good job of keeping it hidden, once they see past that they’ll be motivated to help out.”
Further information on the crisis may be found at LiNK’s website, http://www.linkglobal.org/, or at their Youtube channel, accessible from that website.