Students are spending the week devoted to changing the narrative about North Korea. Specifically, they are rallying around the theme, “Korean Refugee Rescue Week.”
Driven by seniors Patrick Gallant, Taesik Won, and Yoon Chang, who have spearheaded this awareness effort, students are learning about the immense injustices taking place under the current North Korean regime.
Chang said they came up with idea to start the Saint Viator Rescue Team while studying for finals in January.
“YoonGeol mentioned something about wanting to create a club where Korean and American students share each other’s culture, and we started complaining about how we always get asked if we are South Korean or North Korean when we mention that we are Korean,” he said. “The conversation eventually led to all of us wanting to create a club to address the situation that is going on in North Korea, and a week later, we started connecting with LINK (Liberty in North Korea) and talking to both students and teachers at Viator.”
LINK is a refugee rescue and resettlement organization working to engage others in their efforts to rescue North Korean refugees hiding in China. Ultimately, they try to resettle these refugees in South Korea or in the United States, so that they can avoid being forcibly repatriated back to North Korea.
According to LINK officials, North Korea represents one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today, but the scale of international response has been severely lacking.
Its supporters are working to change the way the world sees North Korea, to advance international support for its people, and advance in their rescue.
As part of Korean Refugee Week at Saint Viator, the three seniors embarked on a fundraising campaign, aimed at covering the cost of rescuing one North Korean refugee.
LINK officials estimate that it costs $3,000 to rescue one refugee and assist in the resettlement, including providing basic needs, transportation during the 3,000-mile long journey, accommodations and resettlement assistance. The free passage model embraced by LINK, ensures that refugees are treated with dignity and respect throughout the risky journey, and it allows refugees to begin their new lives in freedom without debt.
“I think of raising awareness as questioning what they will do about it. It is up to that student to decide what to do with that reality,” Chang said.
On Friday, Saint Viator will hold a “dress down day,” awarding its nearly 1,000 students the chance to abandon their uniform for the day, in exchange for donating at least $3 towards the cause.
Update: The Rescue Team reached their goal of raising $3,000 to sponsor the rescue of one North Korean refugee.