- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 17, 2006

Liberty in North Korea, a 2-year-old organization with a global reach, has found success drawing attention to human rights atrocities in the isolated communist state.

Its latest effort featured an airing of the movie “Seoul Train” at the American University in Northwest last week. The film opens with a small North Korean boy wandering around a market, searching the ground for bits of food to eat.

In another scene, a family of five attempts to enter the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, but Chinese guards drag them out. According to the film, all were arrested but were eventually granted asylum in South Korea.

The 1995 documentary by filmmakers Jim Butterworth, Lisa Sleeth and Aaron Lubarsky depicts the life-and-death struggle faced by North Koreans who attempt to flee their homeland through China.

“I didn’t know specifically how many refugees there were, how many people tried to leave so often, how many were sent back, and how hard it was at all,” said Mark Devries, a sophomore at the American University.

Established in 2004, Liberty in North Korea (LINK) coordinates programs raising awareness of North Korean human rights issues, said its executive director, Adrian Hong. LINK has 70 chapters around the world, including in Japan, South Korea and Belgium.

“The more public opinion is shaped on the issue, the more likely governments [will] move on the issue,” Mr. Hong said.

That awareness, he said, is bringing tangible results. In 2004, Congress passed the North Korean Human Rights Act unanimously.

In 2005, Jay Lefkowitz was appointed as special envoy for North Korean human rights by President Bush. This year, for the first time, the United States granted asylum to six North Korean refugees.

“Silence is death. By purposefully ignoring the suffering that’s happening there [North Korea], it causes more death and despair to North Korean people,” said Suzanne Scholte, chairman of a separate organization, North Korean Freedom Coalition. “South Korea must stand up for the rights of the Korean people, whether born in the North or South,” she said. Mrs. Scholte’s group is part of Freedom House, founded by Eleanor Roosevelt.

The North Korea regime of President Kim Jong-il has endured famine during the past decade, leaving millions of people dead. Tens of thousands have fled to China, hoping to eventually resettle in South Korea or some other country. If caught they are automatically repatriated to North Korea, where they are sent to detention camps and sometimes beaten to death.

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