Students host events to raise awareness about conditions in North Korea

Zainab Calcuttawala

The UT chapter of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) urged students to send letters of solidarity to the North Korean people during its biannual day of awareness for the human rights violations occurring in North Korea. 

The event Friday aimed to educate the University community about the human side of the political crisis in North Korea, according to Sarah Choi, UT LiNK chapter’s vice president and cellular and molecular biology junior. The current turmoil started in 1945 when Cold War geopolitics split the peninsula into North and South Korea.

“We wanted to emphasize the people side of North Korea, instead of the politics,” Choi said. “There is an abuse of human rights that is going on in North Korea apart from the nuclear issue and the dictatorship.”

The national organization focuses its efforts on using the funds University chapters raise to rescue refugees. Otherwise, Chinese officials would send these refugees back to North Korea, where they would face likely imprisonment in concentration camps, Choi said.

“When North Korean refugees leave the country, they cross the [Yalu] River to enter China, a country that does not recognize their refugee status,” Choi said. “LiNK headquarters sends rescue teams to China to help the refugees get refugee status through the U.S. or South Korea. Basically, we are an underground railroad.”

Most of the $3,500 it takes to rescue a refugee is used to convince officials in China and North Korea to release the refugees into the hands of LiNK rescue teams, according to Kirstin Helgeson, UT LiNK chapter’s social media chair and linguistics and mathematics sophomore.

“3,500 sounds like it is a lot of money for just one person, but really most of it is used for bribery, which is sad,” Helgeson said.

The UT LiNK chapter has helped save a total of 12 refugees since its founding in 2006.

LiNK uses $500 of the funds to help provide educational scholarships to the refugees, said Amy Kridaratikorn, LiNK member and advertising junior.

Kridaratikorn said the way LiNK clearly outlines how the organization intends to use the funds makes her confident about its philanthropic efforts.

“For LiNK, you raise a set amount of funds, and then you save a refugee,” Kridaratikorn said. “Later on, they send you [the refugee’s name] and a thank you note from them, so I know exactly who my efforts are helping.”