North Korea: What You Need to Know

Imagine a life where you are denied freedom of speech and freedom of movement, or a life in which learning about the technology that our lives revolve around today is illegal. These are the conditions under which many North Koreans live with today. Their basic rights have been stripped away by an oppressive regime.

This article is not meant to simply state the wrong-doings that are happening in North Korea. It is meant to give you a little insight into what many North Koreans face. The fact that you are reading this article, possibly on your phone, or a computer screen, is something they may never experience.

The most popular escape route out of North Korea is across the Tumen River that separates China and North Korea. However, China and North Korea have been allies since the Korean War in the 1950's, which means China will send back any escapees they find. As a result, it is incredibly difficult for North Koreans to make it through China and relocate to another country.

Image source: Flickr

However, North Koreans are still on the rise. They are climbing toward better days, as there are now more black markets that will help them gain access to technologies such as DVDs, TVs, and cell phones. But they have to be careful with their technology because watching illegally-obtained movies is punishable by death, torture, or prison. The strict regime operates by controlling the amount of outside knowledge that can filter in and worries that too much knowledge will cloud the beliefs they impose on the people. 

Image source: Flickr, Eric Lafforgue

While all of this may seem like a very overwhelming amount of information, there are a lot of ways to help North Korea.

We’ve contacted SooKyeom Helia Lee, president of the Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) organization at UC Davis. Lee tells us why she decided to join LiNK:

“I grew up listening to my grandpa's stories about the Korean War. When I moved to the States, he passed away and his stories remained with me. My interest in the separation of South and North developed as I began to experience the hardships as an immigrant. I felt that North Korean refugees and I shared connections. While I don't want to undermine the daily struggles of the North Koreans, refugees left their motherland to seek what it couldn't offer, much like the immigrants. When I changed my views towards the North Korean refugees, I noticed they are not much different from the rest of 'us'. Partnering in their pursuit of freedom only seemed natural.”

Lee felt connected to North Korean refugees and decided to join the cause. While it may seem difficult to create change in this type of situation, by taking small steps, LiNK hopes to reach its goal.

“Whenever doubts crawl into my mind, I remind myself to stay faithful and to act and speak what I believe - the North Korean people will be freed in my generation,” says Lee.

Photo Source: Flickr, Eric Lafforgue

This article cannot begin to detail the hardships the North Korean people face today, but it can give you a taste of something you may not have known about the North Korean plight. It’s important for us to be aware of the experiences the people around us go through, and North Korea is only one example.

If you’re looking for more information, Lee recommends Liberty in North Korea or the Human Rights Forum. Also, watch for North Korean refugee speaker events on campus hosted by LiNK. Refugees have incredible stories to tell, and it’s up to us to listen and take action.

Cover image source: Flickr, Stephan