About This Fundraiser
An estimated 1 to 3 million people starved to death in the North Korean famine which spanned from 1995 to 1998. According to experts, this loss of life accounted for the deaths of up to 10 percent of North Korea’s population.
It is believed that the number of North Koreans escaping North Korea peaked from 1998 to 1999, immediately following the destruction and carnage wrought by the three-year famine. As the infrastructure of the country collapsed into chaos, somewhere between 100,000 to 300,000 North Korean defectors made their way out of the country seeking refuge and resources. The effects of the North Korean Famine are still seen today and are especially visible in the lives of an estimated 200,000 North Korean refugees who survive in hiding in China currently.
Even now, North Koreans are among the poorest people in the world, they are the least economically free. For over a decade, Christians in North Korea have been the most persecuted in the world. The North Korean government systematically denies its citizens basic civil, religious, and political rights.
Many North Koreans find the conditions in their country unbearable. As of 2017, it was estimated that over 1,000 North Koreans escape out of the country every year. Leaving the country, however, is not an easy task.
North Koreans are strictly tracked by their government. According to our refugees, men, especially, are checked for their attendance to work. Travel throughout the country is strictly regulated and monitored by authorities. To leave the country is to an act of treason. The punishment for such a crime is at minimum a sentence of seven years in a North Korean concentration camp. In some cases, attempted escape even merits execution.
North Korean prison camps are renowned for their brutality in physical and psychological abuse. These camps were at their height estimated to detain up to 200,000 North Korean inmates who are systematically starved, tortured, and worked to death. This number is now estimated to be between 80,000 and 120,000.
It is almost impossible for North Korean refugees to flee south on the Korean Peninsula, where North Korea borders South Korea. Between the two Koreas is the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world since the end of the Korean War. Footage of a North Korean soldier’s dramatic escape across the DMZ in 2017 can be seen here.
The most viable direction for North Koreans to flee is north, into China.
As flooding and subsequent infrastructural damages ravaged the North Korean people in 2007, South Korean officials noted the largest influx of North Korean refugees in a 10-year period. Over 2,800 North Korean defectors were accepted into South Korea in 2008 and over 2,900 in 2009. Realizing that this was only a fraction of the total population of the North Korean refugees who escaped from North Korea this period of time, it is most likely that even more North Koreans defectors sought refuge in China following the natural disasters in 2007.
About General Fund
In November 2016, the Ministry of Unification in South Korea reported that the number of North Korean refugees escaping to South Korea had surpassed 30,000. Various media report various challenges that refugees face in adjusting to South Korea. An estimated 35 percent of refugees are unemployed, 80 percent work in menial jobs, and refugees who are employed earn 50% of what South Koreans earn.
Escaping North Korea is the first battle many refugees face. Many report that English is a major barrier for many of them, as they struggle with "Konglish" words that have seeped into the South Korean language. TNKR helps refugees by connecting them with volunteer tutors. Since its founding in March 2013, TNKR has connected 315 refugees with more than 650 volunteer tutors and coaches.