HHK Director Tim Peters sounds off in the New York Post on the worsening plight of North Koreans and defectors under Kim Jong Un

Life inside the surreal, cruel & sheltered

North Korea By Maureen Callahan January 11, 2014 | 2:28pm

Starving in the Countryside

It (defecting from North Korea) is a treacherous undertaking: those who do not freeze to death might starve to death or be caught and turned back to face execution. Women defectors are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking.

“It is rampant,” says Tim Peters, founder of the aid group Helping Hands Korea. “North Korean women are so helpless — they cannot speak the language. They are without documents. There is the lack of a criminal-justice system in China, and the traffickers run wild. If the women aren’t sold to the sex trade, they are, equally as dangerously, sold as brides to Chinese men.”

But life inside North Korea is so desperate, Peters says, that they’re willing to take the risk. “They think, ‘If I’m a bride, at least I’ll have enough to eat.’”

Wonder at the Outside World

Once beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom, North Koreans cannot believe what the outside world has to offer. Unfamiliar with modern plumbing, they don’t know how to flush toilets. Water that runs all day, every day, astonishes, as does the abundance of food.

And then comes the larger realization: These people have freedoms.

“I have sat with refugees in farmhouses on the Chinese border, and they’re watching South Korean TV, and they see cellphones and fashion and washing machines, and their jaws hang open,” says Demick.

“Even a short while in China,” says Peters, “makes it clear how grossly they’ve been lied to their entire lives.”

Meanwhile, what must North Koreans, the most homogenous society in the world, make of this nearly 7-foot tall pierced, tattooed, boa-wearing basketball player, probably the first black man and American they’ve seen in person?

“North Koreans would highlight the suffering of blacks in America, and say ‘Here is a disaffected black American who has suffered,’ ” Peters says. “There is a reason they want to put him in the state-run narrative, but the rank and file would be extremely puzzled.”

And Kim’s basketball diplomacy isn’t going to be enough to staunch the flight of young people, who increasingly suspect the world outside must be better than within.

“Kim Jong-un has made it clear that even though his father was brutal, he will be even worse,” Peters says. “And his father was a very cruel man.”

READ MORE: http://nypost.com/2014/01/11/life-inside-the-surreal-cruel-sheltered-north-korea/

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Why HHK has maintained its Ton-a-Month food aid program to North Koreans in crisis since 1996…..

Life and death on margins of North Korea society  –AFP  (Korea Herald 8-25-2013)

North Korea’s famine in the 1990s unleashed a Darwinian struggle for survival that swiftly eliminated many of the most vulnerable in an already sharply stratified society, a U.N. panel heard Thursday.

“People are treated without dignity in North Korea ― and in some cases like sub-humans,” said Ji Seong-ho, who was 14 when he lost his hand and left leg trying to steal coal from a moving train during the famine years.

Ji, now 31, was one of a number of North Korean defectors called to testify before a U.N. Commission of Inquiry into human rights in North Korea that is currently holding hearings in Seoul.

The North, which strongly denies allegations of rights abuses, has refused to recognize the commission and barred its members from visiting the country.

Ji said mentally and physically disabled people faced widespread social and official discrimination in North Korea, where they are judged as being of “no use” to society.

“When I was young, before my accident, I admit I used to make fun of adults with disabilities,” he said.

During the 1994-98 famine, which saw hundreds of thousands starve to death, ordinary North Koreans had to focus all their energies on scavenging to stay alive.

Food was so scarce that there was little to share and those who could not fend for themselves ― the very young, the elderly, the disabled ― were at particular risk.

“We had disabled people in our town, but by the time the food situation had begun to improve slightly in the late 1990s, we didn’t see them any more, meaning they must have died,” Ji said.

In March 1996 he was attempting to steal coal from a train to sell for food when he fell under the wheels, severing his left hand and leg.

“It was only then I realized how loud I could scream,” said Ji, who was taken to hospital and operated on without morphine or general anesthetic.

Unable to walk without crutches and with no job prospects, Ji managed to cross the border illegally into China in 2000 in an effort to find food for his family. Read More

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TRUSTPOLITIK VS. DISTRUSTPOLITIK: DOWN AND OUT ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA by Robert Collins

(An excellent historical backdrop to and analysis of the current, and all-t00-familiar, logjam in negotiations between North and South Korea, written by Robert Collins, one of the world’s top experts on the inner workings of the North Korean regime.——Tim)
July 23, 2013 · by  · in 

After decades of tensions and stalemate, Trustpolitik, a  fresh approach by South Korean President Park Geun-hye towards North Korea, indicates why it is so difficult to build anything resembling a stable relationship between these troubled neighbors. Through Trustpolitik, Park has sought to avoid the excesses and naïveté of Kim Dae-jung’s “Sunshine Policy” – which aimed to induce the Kim family’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the table through almost unconditional economic cooperation and aid.

But even President Park’s approach imagines too much sunshine in North Korea.  The distrust between North and South Korea, rooted in their antithetical political systems, cannot be erased.  This distrust has produced one war that has resulted in the death of millions, mostly Koreans, but also troops from the People’s Republic of China, the United States and member nations of the United Nations Command.  It has also produced an armistice that has served as the setting for a 60-year military standoff for, countless provocations, North Korea’s development into a de facto nuclear state, and countless failed attempts at reconciliation. Read More…..

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“Two Nations Persecute North Korean Christians”Remarks by Tim Peters

Tim Peters congratulates authors of new book on Persecution of Christians in North Korea

The following remarks were given at the Seoul Press Center by HHK_Catacombs’ founder, Tim Peters on the occasion of the book release, entitled Persecution, co-authored by Pastor Peter Jung and Christian Activist, H.T. Kim on Thursday, July 25, 2013

“Two Nations Persecute North Korean Christians”


Today I am pleased to congratulate fellow Christian activist, H.T. Kim, and Pastor Peter Jung for their collaborative effort to author this timely and moving volume simply entitled, Persecution. This remarkable volume portrays the extraordinary severity of persecution of North Korean Christians. Both of these Christian men are well-qualified to discuss this painful issue as they have been in the mission field in direct contact with North Koreans in crisis for approximately a decade and a half.

Even a brief perusal of the text and painfully detailed artwork in this impressive new book will make clear why North Korea has been ranked the worst persecutor in the world for the 11th year running in the highly respected Worldwide Watchlist, a research project conducted annually by the international agency, Open Doors. It must be noted that North Korea ranked worse than such notorious persecutors as Afghanistan, where the Taliban is growing stronger day by day, Iran, Libya, Niger, Syria and Somalia to name just a few of the top 50 persecuting governments on the globe. To quote from the organization’s website:

“For the eleventh year running, this is the most difficult place on earth to be a Christian. One of the remaining Communist states, it is vehemently opposed to religion of any kind. Christians are classified as hostile and face arrest, detention, torture, even public execution. There is a system of labor camps including the renowned prison No. 15, which reportedly houses 6,000 persecuted Christians alone. Despite the severe oppression, there is a growing underground church movement of an estimated 400,000 Christians.”

Helping Hands Korea_Catacombs is also intimately aware of the names and faces that make up this nebulous term, ‘North Korean persecution.’ We know this both through our work of helping the persecuted church inside the nightmarish “Secret State.” However, we are also fully aware of the excruciating consequences of persecution when new Christians, those who come to embrace faith in Jesus Christ as refugees in China, are forcibly repatriated to the DPRK by Chinese authorities. This horrific and illegal practice includes repatriation of children and pre-teen orphans who have escaped the state institutions of North Korea, which are a mockery of actual social welfare facilities for homeless children.

The following heart-cry was sent to us from China earlier this year by an elementary school-aged child who was an orphan in North Korea until she desperately fled across the Yalu River to China.

My parents died and I grew up in a North Korean orphanage. I have no memory of my parents. I was almost always hungry while in the orphanage. In 2008, I escaped from the orphanage with other children and became a beggar child in the market of Musan. We North Korean beggars spent the winter in China. In North Korea, we could hardly find a meal by begging but we were able to have three meals a day in China by begging in the market. In China, one day, we met a Christian missionary on the street who protected us in his shelter. There, we learned Chinese and also the Bible. We watched many South Korean TV dramas and listened to many South Korean songs. I want to go to school. I have a dream to be a hair-designer for South Korean TV talents. Please help me realize my dream.

I am happy to report that this young child is in a very safe and in a permanent resettled location now. However, with this innocent child’s testimony as a backdrop, I beg you to consider the horror of nine similar orphans who were repatriated from Laos, through Beijing, China and back to the DPRK in May of this year. The case is well-documented and it’s not necessary for me to elaborate on that tragedy.

However, I wish to argue at this timely juncture, that the persecution of North Korean Christians does not only take place in the kwaliso as well as other detention centers and SSA bureaus within the DPRK. It has already been firmly established and documented that Christians are categorically and systematically abused in these places. I submit that North Korean refugees who have come to embrace the Christian faith as refugees in China are also persecuted by virtue of the repatriation policy of China. Any North Korean refugee, whether Christian or not, has a well-founded fear of persecution when repatriated to the North because they departed their country without government permission.

Please note that newly converted North Korean refugees have a double reason to tremble in fear at the coming wrath by authorities, since Chinese authorities routinely provide their DPRK counterparts background information, including contact with Christian missionaries, on captured refugees that are being repatriated. In effect, by virtue of the policies of two nations: outright Christian persecution by the DPRK, and forcible repatriation of Christian refugees by the government of China that has full knowledge of the inhuman treatment that Christians will face after repatriation, we can say that North Korean Christians are the victims of persecution by state fiat, that is, by virtue of the policies of two nations, the DPRK and China, which acts as an enabler of the persecution policies of its neighbor. It is imperative to combat both sides of this persecution!

I strongly urge the newly formed Commission of Inquiry under UN auspices to consider these dual aspects of persecution of Christians that have been inflicted on North Koreans in crisis by two anti-Christian governments.

Once again, I congratulate H.T. Kim and Pastor Peter Jung on this important publishing milestone regarding such a crucial, if painful,  topic.

Thank you very much.

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Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial: “Plight of North Koreans persists amid posturing”– HHK’s rescue activities highlighted

Kim Jong-un's image is burned in Seoul by protesters denouncing last week's cancellation of talks between the Koreas. (LEE JIN-MAN / AP)


As last week’s abortive meeting between the two Koreas illustrated, the region’s foreign policy often seems to be at the mercy of Pyongyang’s irrational whims. This week, North Korea was at it again, proposing high-level talks with Washington just a few months after it threatened to bomb Austin, Texas.

While diplomats debate ad infinitum, many of North Korea’s 25 million people live a nightmare. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International estimate that up to 200,000 North Koreans, some of them children, are imprisoned in camps modeled after the Soviet gulags, where they are subjected to torture and forced labor. Millions waste away in hunger, without freedom of expression or religion. Arbitrary arrests and public executions maintain order by instilling fear. The U.N. Human Rights Council has condemned North Korea’s “systematic, widespread, and grave violations of human rights.”

The situation has not improved since young Kim Jong-un succeeded his father a year and a half ago. His regime denies the very existence of prison camps.

Many North Koreans are jailed after failed attempts to cross the Chinese border. Because the demilitarized zone dividing the Koreas is heavily fortified, North Koreans can only escape northward. After the new government gave a shoot-on-sight order to curb illegal crossings, the number of defectors was almost halved, to 1,500 last year.

For those fortunate enough to make it to China, the journey has only begun. In violation of international agreements, China routinely repatriates North Korean refugees. So defectors face a 3,000-mile clandestine journey to Southeast Asia to gain refugee status and entry to South Korea, where they are naturalized and given government stipends. While around 25,000 have settled there, more than 30,000 North Korean refugees live illegally in China.

Humanitarian organizations such as Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) and Helping Hands Korea facilitate their journeys. The Rev. Tim Peters, a North Korea activist, has compared the network to the Underground Railroad that once helped African American slaves from the South reach freedom in the North. While these organizations make up a small bandage for the hemorrhaging, more relief may be achievable through diplomacy.

Although Pyongyang often appears impervious to international pressure, recent nudging from its sole ally, China, has served to moderate its bellicosity. During last week’s Sino-American summit, Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping found common ground on the need to denuclearize North Korea. They should extend the discussion to the plight of North Korea’s people.

Even as President George W. Bush denounced North Korea as part of the “axis of evil,” he separated politics from people by signing the 2004 North Korean Human Rights Act to help its refugees settle in America. Obama should follow Bush’s example by backing South Korean leaders’ persistent call for Beijing to stop repatriating defectors. With new leadership in the Koreas, Japan, and China, the Obama administration has a rare window of opportunity to champion human rights in Northeast Asia.

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“Vanish the Night”—-Help a North Korean Refugee Today!


The band, Ooberfuse, has released a new song about the North Korean situation  today, April 15th – Vanish the Night – as a cynical marking of Kim il-Sung’s 101st birthday.

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ICNK coalition member, HHK lauds UN scrutiny of rampant North Korean human rights abuses: COI is established

ICNK (21.03.2013) - The International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea (ICNK) today welcomes the establishment of a special, three-person UN Commission of Inquiry to examine rights abuses in North Korea by the UN Human Rights Council at its 22nd session. The ICNK has campaigned since its founding to see the establishment of such a commission of inquiry (COI). This is an historic step towards ensuring accountability for human rights abuses in North Korea.  READ MORE /VIEW HISTORIC UN HRC SESSION
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NK Net’s Magazine Interview with HHK’s Founder & Christian Activist,Tim Peters

The following wide-ranging interview by reporter, Kim So Yeol, with Christian  activist Tim Peters, founder of Helping Hands Korea and long-term advocate for North Korean  Human Rights,  was conducted last month for an article that appeared in the February 2013 issue of NK Vision. Thank you to NKnet intern Nova Mercier for transcribing the interview and doing much of the editing.                                                                                       Read article in Korean based on this interview

What changes do you hope to see in regards to North Korean issues? Naturally, because life in North Korea for the rank and file is so deplorable and constrained, I have many aspirations for improvement. One of the most urgent would be to see a resolution of human rights violations in North Korea, the conditions are especially desperate in the DPRK’s prison system.

My hope is that the South Korean government becomes much more courageous in standing up for the rights of North Koreans, particularly those in transit from North Korea to South Korea. I hope that the new administration in Seoul will strongly defend their rights, as these people are in great danger after leaving North Korea.

There are so many areas in which improvements need to be made! I also hope the US, Japan, EU, and South Korea could separate trade issues from refugee and human rights issues when dealing with China. This is a barrier to progress in protecting refugees and stateless children in China. All aspects of the relationships between major governments seem to be held hostage to trade considerations. This is highly unfortunate and I hope that these issues can be decoupled and dealt with in a firm and principled way.

Essentially, governments have to ask themselves: do we really believe in justice? Do we really believe in protection for the vulnerable? Do we really believe in humanitarian values? Or are we a purely mercantile society that wants trade at any cost?

I fully understand that every society has to make a decision about what is most important to its members. But if we truly call ourselves democracies and republics, and we really care about the rule of law and human rights and freedoms, our commitment to those values should not vacillate depending on the economy. We should not be a fair-weather friend in our commitment to human rights and other personal freedoms. READ MORE:

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North Korean prisoner escaped after 23 brutal years: CBS 60 Minutes

Escape from Camp 14, Shin Dong-hyuk in a North Korean prison for 23 years

“Born in a prison camp, Shin Dong-hyuk describes how three generations of a family are incarcerated if one family member is considered disloyal. Anderson Cooper reports.”(quoted from the CBS News 60 Minutes website)

***Note: HHK’s director  was part of an activist team that traveled with Shin Dong-hyuk to the UK when Shin gave his testimony to the UK Parliament and major British media. A second trip was made not long after to Denmark. Helping Hands Korea has carried out its work of helping North Korean refugees and all North Koreans in crisis for the past 16 years and continues this work to the present under difficult circumstances.

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Escape from North Korea:The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad

Helping Hands Korea is profiled extensively in Melanie Kirkpatrick’s much heralded account of the network of volunteers, many of them Christian activists, that has  sought to fill the vacuum created by governments and well-funded international agencies that have chosen to ignore the plight of North Korean refugees in China.                                                     Ms. Kirkpatrick, a veteran journalist and deputy editor for the Wall Street Journal, has painstakingly etched a comprehensive picture of the modern equivalent of the US Civil War’s abolitionists’ volunteer network, the Underground Railroad, to guide slaves in the South to safe havens in the Northern states.   In the past 15 years, a tiny community of activists has designed a similar grid to facilitate the safe evacuation of North Korean refugees through vast distances of China, which for the refugees is deeply hostile territory since Beijing’s authorities adamantly continue a calloused policy of forced repatriation of North Korean defectors if caught.                                                                                            Helping Hands Korea has decried Western governments’ ongoing craven compromise with Chinese authorities for commercial gain, choosing massive profits instead of confronting China over its consistently egregious violation as a UN Security Council Member of its own human rights obligations towards North Korean refugees on its soil.

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