For several years now I have been a supporter of LINK – no, not the protagonist of the Legend of Zelda series. LINK as in Liberty in North Korea. It was August of 2009 when I met Brenda. Brenda was, at the time, a full time employee at the Non-Profit Liberty in North Korea. In all honesty, I was pretty in the dark about this particular social justice issue. I was on board with Invisible Children and Buy Shoes Save Lives but LINK was an unknown to me. But, Brenda was persistent and challenged me to do a screening of their documentary the following March. Since then, I’ve been a advocate for LINK, their mission, and the North Korean people.
If you were unaware, “Liberty in North Korea is a grassroots non-profit organization that focuses on redefining North Korea by its people by raising awareness about this issue, rescuing and providing resettlement support to North Korean refugees, and seeking an end to the crisis. We believe that the North Korean people will overcome these challenges and achieve their liberty in our lifetime.” That sounds good and all but truthfully, I didn’t know what the issues were. I’d heard of Kim Jong Ill, but beyond that, not much. I was not alone in that; the North Korean people are in the dark as well: brainwashed, starved, and denied basic freedoms by a ruthless military dictatorship.
“The North Korean government denies basic freedoms to every citizen. There is no freedom of speech, religion, information, or movement, and the people are forced to live in extreme poverty. Anyone who challenges the regime’s control faces harsh punishment, which could be being sent to a political prison camp or public execution.”
This is happening now. How had I never heard of this? I was enraged; my heart was broken; I had to share this with more people. If nothing else, I can raise awareness and spark a fire in the hearts of others who can step up where I cannot.
LINK, like many NGO’s, is a grassroots word-of-mouth organization that spreads their passion through social media and passionate groups of Nomads (traveling representatives for the organization) who travel the United States. These nomads go through an intensive 10 week training before embarking and sharing their passion with those they encounter. Liam, the English heartthrob of the Cal West Nomads, described the process as “exhausting & amazing. It makes you more capable to deal with stress because of how crazy tour life can be.” The others described it as “awesome,” “cool,” and “absolutely life changing.” Their favorite part of this adventure? Changing peoples’ perspective of North Korea away from politics and toward the people. “People are typically familiar with the more political aspects of the [North Korea] – the nuclear standoff, the Kim family, oppression. However, they usually have never heard about the changes that have been happening in the past years that are being driven by the North Korean people… it’s so uplifting and inspiring to hear about how the North Korean people are overcoming these challenges and becoming agents of progress on this issue.”
The thing to remember when thinking about North Korea is the people. These are men and women look just like you and me. They are indoctrinated from birth to worship a madman as supreme leader, and they beaten or killed for anything but total submission. What if this were your reality? Would you want people to hear it and say “that’s sad” and keep watching the news, or would you want people to step up and do something about it? I know what I’d want.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.” Edmund Burke
At this point you may be asking yourself, “What can I do about this?” You can do a lot! LINK has made it incredibly easy to get involved, no matter what level of commitment you are hoping for.
- You can host screenings in your home, at your church, at your school, or at your place of business.
- You can start to share the stories of the refugees and people of North Korea to shift their perception from Politics to People.
- You can donate – all of your donations go to rescuing and resettling North Korean people. “Even a small amount like $3 will add up to make a huge impact…. Since 2010, we’ve been able to raise enough funds to rescue 221 refugees!”
- You Can become a Nomad!
Nomads come in all shapes, sizes, religious backgrounds, and skill sets. “After meeting lots of former Nomads, we’ve seen that being a Nomad is much more about who you are as a person rather than your interests or educational background.” Bethany and I have hosted Nomads from South Korea, Brooklyn, Boston, Washington, and more. All are united by one thing – a passion to see a free North Korea. You may be reading this and saying, “This all sounds great, but I’m in school, I can’t just drop everything for 6 months.” I understand that sentiment, but many of the nomads we have met have done just that and would do it again. “We meet a lot of college students who want to wait until after graduation to apply for internships, but there is so much to be gained from doing an internship before finishing school. We all agree that education is extremely important, but if you are able, apply to intern or be a Nomad!”
I’m going to speak as a Christian for a moment. As Christians we follow the great commandment, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is important to remember as we go throughout our lives. This, however, does not negate our calling to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39). It would be hard to argue that standing up for the broken and rejected was not close to the heart of our Savior. Look how He interacted with the lepers, the prostitutes, how he met the needs of tax collectors and sinners. It is our calling to be a faith of actions, not just words. As DC Talk said in the 90’s, “Love is a Verb,” and our love needs to be visibile in our actions. “We have so much support from the Christian community, and it’s incredibly inspiring to see what Christians have done to empower the North Korean people through our organization.” Maybe your role isn’t to be a nomad. Maybe you cannot afford to make monthly donations. Can you take the time to pray?
“We appreciate prayer as well because the North Korean people can use any form of support you have to give.” – Cal West Nomads
This problem is huge. North Korea to me is our generations Berlin Wall. I want to be apart of the movement that tears down the North Korean wall and I can. I would challenge you to spend time in prayer and seek guidance from trusted mentors on how you can be involved. In the meantime do some research, check out the LINK’s website, Facebook or Instagram @libertyinnorthkorea. Contact them, ask questions and engage this issue. “If you want to see what our events look like or learn more about what life is like as a Nomad, you can look up #LiNKevents and #LiNKnomads.”
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
Watch the full Danny From North Korea Documentary below: