North Korea is most often in the news due to its nuclear program, but a number of charity organizations have raised concern for another big issue affecting the country – the persecution of its citizens.
Residents looking to escape the poverty and harsh life in the isolated Asian country face severe threats – if caught by government officials, they can be executed and put their entire family, including subsequent generations, in danger of imprisonment.
Last week, about 30 North Korean refugees in China facing the serious threat of persecution and even death back in their home country, were granted temporary relief due to South Korea's National Assembly adopting a resolution urging China to refrain from deporting them.
North Korean refugees often make their way through China in an attempt to reach South Korea, but there has been increased security at the China-North Korea border ordered by Kim Jong-un, the son and successor of Kim Jong-il.
One Christian organization established to help the refugees in their plight, Helping Hands Korea (HHK), delivers food and other basic necessities to the most vulnerable sectors of the North Korean society, especially orphaned children, school children in impoverished areas, the handicapped, the elderly and single parents. It was established in 1990 by Tim Peters, an American missionary and human rights activist who has spent 15 years helping North Koreans who have recently escaped from their repressive homeland.
"HHK is an organization committed to actively responding to the plight of oppressed North Koreans by alleviating physical, social, political and spiritual needs through partnership with like-minded individuals, in response to Jesus Christ's call to love, serve, relieve suffering and set the exploited free," the organization's mission statement reads.
Peters spoke with The Christian Post about HHK's ongoing efforts to aid North Korean refugees, and clarified that the restrictive NK regime made it hard for missionaries to actually enter the country.
He explained that HHK endeavors to send food aid into the North whenever it can find a reasonably transparent channel to the most vulnerable sectors of the DPRK's society, and supply desperately needed medicines to the North Korean underground church. However, most of HHK's work for the past 15 years has been directed toward the flood of refugees who left the Kim dictatorship and live highly uncertain lives in China and other countries.
"HHK has identified stateless children of repatriated North Korean refugee women as the most vulnerable sector of the refugee population requiring shelter. Each refugee in our shelters receives a Bible and an introduction to the Christian faith. Acceptance is a personal matter subject to the sovereignty of free choice," he elaborated on the organization's missionary efforts.
"All of the activities above are carried out in the name of Jesus Christ and for His glory as we endeavor, moving into our 16th year, to reach the 'unreached people' of North Korea, especially as they flee the Stalinist fiefdom of the Kim family dynasty that has held an iron grip on North Korea for over 60 years," he concluded.
Another organization, the North Korea Freedom Coalition, is urging concerned citizens of the world and national governments to take action to help the North Korean refugees by writing letters directly addressed to President Hu Jintao of China, begging him to save the North Koreans' lives by not sending the refugees home.