Friday, June 10, 2011

Underground railroad from North Korea to freedom

Thailand? People who escaped from North Korea are traveling 3,000 miles to Thailand? They want to get to South Korea, where they will be welcomed and Thailand is the closest country with ties to South Korea. 3,000 miles!

Global Post
In the beginning, they arrived in ones and twos across the Mekong River. They were dirty, skeleton-thin and scared to death.
Sugint Dechkul, a small-town lawyer in Thailand’s far-northern Chiang Rai province, had no idea what to make of them. They’d wander up the riverside country road near his home, sometimes begging for food or shelter in an alien tongue.
“We’d ask, ‘Where are you from?’ They couldn’t answer,” Sugint said.
Finally, through painstaking pantomime, one of the stragglers conveyed his origins. North Korea. Nearly 3,000 miles away. 
That was nine years ago. Today, the so-called “underground railroad” traveled by North Korean defectors increasingly terminates in Thailand.
“The first ones looked like they hadn’t showered in a month. Now they come in big groups. They know their way and they know what they’re doing.” 
In recent years, North Korean defectors’ network has discovered Thailand is the gateway to their dreams: resettlement in Seoul, South Korean citizenship and thousands in cash to start life a new life. Though this tropical nation is distant from the often chilly Korean peninsula, it is the nearest reachable ally of South Korea, which maintains a policy of financially aiding and patriating its divided kin.
It is risky to help North Koreans in China. Guess who is taking this risk.
Christianity, practiced by roughly one-third of South Koreans, is the de facto faith of the so-called “underground railroad” network, said a long-time activist with more than a decade’s experience on the circuit.

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