He thought about the defectors under his care: For months, they had lived under the constant threat of being caught by Chinese officials and returned to North Korea. Now in Hanoi, the activists' goal was to find the right embassy -- one away from a busy street and out of the steely gaze of Vietnamese secret police -- and then shepherd the defectors inside.I have great admiration for the people willing to risk their own lives and freedom to help the refugees. And for all the Christian-bashing that goes on these days (some of it deserved), it's worth noting how many of the people involved in the efforts to get North Koreans to freedom are Christian missionaries or clergy.
Once within the embassy compound, the refugees could request sanctuary, taking another step toward freedom in South Korea.
The plan was all set. Then Kim and other activists learned about the capture of the five. The three activists -- Kim, another South Korean and an American missionary -- gathered to discuss their options. Should they press forward with the nine remaining defectors, or was the embassy gambit now too risky?
"We were all so tormented," Kim recalled. "At the same time we had to be reasonable. We had nine lives under our custody, people for whom we had assumed total responsibility."
The activists finally posed their dilemma to the defectors themselves. "We told them, 'This is our plan,' " Kim said. " 'Do you want to go forward? It's all up to you.' "
Thursday, November 26, 2009
A peek at the underground railroad
John Glionna of the Los Angeles Times has an interesting article on some of the people who run the "underground railroad" that ferries North Korean defectors out of China and onto freedom, the safe houses they use, and the border crossings the attempt. An excerpt: