North Korea

From left to right, Soo Jeong Kim, Asian cultures and languages and finance senior, theatre graduate student Yong Min Lee and David Nielsen, Asian cultures and languages and finance senior, perform in an art piece about a family that leaves North Korea as part of Liberty in North Korea’s Awareness Day. The event aims to raise awareness about the human rights violations that are taking place in North Korea.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

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.”

South Korean army soldiers walk on the empty road after South Korean vehicles which were refused for entry to North Korea at the customs, immigration and quarantine office in Paju, South Korea, near the border village of Panmunjom, Wednesday, April 3, 2013. North Korea on Wednesday barred South Korean workers from entering a jointly run factory park just over the heavily armed border in the North, officials in Seoul said, a day after Pyongyang announced it would restart its long-shuttered plutonium reactor and increase production of nuclear weapons material.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

PAJU, South Korea — In past deadly confrontations between North and South Korea, a jointly operated industrial park stayed open, churning out goods.

But in the latest sign that North Korea’s warlike stance toward South Korea and the United States is moving from words to action, the North on Wednesday barred South Korean managers and trucks delivering supplies from crossing the border to enter the Kaesong industrial park.

It’s an announcement that further escalates a torrent of actions that analysts say is aimed at pressuring the U.S. and South Korea to change their policies toward North Korea.

The Kaesong move came a day after the North said it would restart its long-shuttered plutonium reactor and a uranium enrichment plant. Both could produce fuel for nuclear weapons that North Korea is developing and has threatened to hurl at the U.S., but which experts don’t think it will be able to accomplish for years.

The North’s rising rhetoric has been met by a display of U.S. military strength, including flights of nuclear-capable bombers and stealth jets at annual South Korean-U.S. military drills that the allies call routine and North Korea says are invasion preparations.

The Kaesong industrial park started producing goods in 2004 and has been an unusual point of cooperation in an otherwise hostile relationship between the Koreas, whose three-year war ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty.