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DIY Kimchi Night Fundraiser supporting North Korean Refugees

A young girl looks out of the bus carrying a group of North Korean asylum seekers to courtrooms in Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province, May 11, 2007. The group of about ten female asylum seekers spent two years traveling through China, Myanmar and Laos to Thailand, hoping to seek refuge in South Korea.
Photographer: Adrees Latif/Reuters/Scanpix NTB

North Korea – CNN reports that authorities in Beijing are currently cracking down on a network of secret safe houses and routes that activists and organizations use to help North Koreans escape the rule of Kim Jong Un in North Korea.

Inspired by the Underground Railroad used by African American slaves to escape to freedom in the late 1700s, the secret network was set up by Korean pastors and consists of undisclosed pathways, underground tunnels and inconspicuous vehicles to assist North Korean escapees to slip into the northern border of China.

As political allies of Pyongyang, China’s government does not consider North Koreans as escapees or refugees, they instead label them “illegal economic migrants” according to a border agreement with North Korea that assists with forcibly deporting them upon detainment. The Norwegian Refugee Council reports “the number of North Korean refugees hiding in China is estimated to be between 50,000 and 200,000 and they are not allowed to apply for asylum.” A small number of refugees are able to travel from China to South Korea with the use of falsified identification papers that show Chinese citizenship. Others are to take the longer route through China, into Mongolia, or other countries located in Southeast Asia. From there, they are able to contact South Korean embassies.

North Koreans have become refugees because they reside in one of the worlds most authoritarian countries that have forced them into physical isolation. Radio Free Asia reports that North Korea authorities started to warn residents to “prepare for economic difficulties as bad as the 1994-1998 famine which killed millions” in April of this year.

Digital flyer sent to Mills College students

On Friday, April 30, 2021, Chef Jee Kim partnered with Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) to host a DIY Kimchi virtual night fundraiser, to raise awareness to of the plight of refugees from North Korea. LiNK is an international non-profit organization that works directly with the North Korean people to “accelerate change” by safely navigating 3000 miles of underground railroad to freedom. The missions are long and dangerous, as Beijing has expressed its willingness to send North Korean refugees back to Pyongyang. The goal was to raise $1,000 during the DIY Kimchi Night for North Korean refugees while uplifting North Koreans’ voices and bridge barriers that stand between Americans and North Koreans and build solidarity between the two countries.

In this Tuesday, July 16, 2019, photo, North Koreans hold cards to make an image depicting a worker and a farmer during a mass game performance of “The Land of the People” at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Courtesy of AP News

Information forwarded to Mills students by the LiNKmills team about the plight of North Korean citizens stated that during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pyongyang “completely closed the 880-mile Sino-Korean border suspending all trade with Beijing, China, cutting off a source of income and supplies for North Koreans.” Kim Jong Un then promoted a governmental principle, called the Juche Ideology of self-reliance. According to AP News, Juche (pronounced Ju-chay) is a political ideology, that inspires complete devotion among North Koreans as a symbol of state power.

The email further details that the fundraiser is due in part to “Kim Jong Un’s refusal to open up the borders is to loosen the country’s dependence on China even if it costs the lives of millions of North Korean people.” The physical isolation of North Korea is so overreaching that no one is allowed to leave the country.

Indoctrination starts early for North Koreans; the dictatorship makes its way into children’s schooling and programs children to spend the majority of their school hours studying propaganda about Kim Jong Un’s family and leadership. Juche’s Ideology of self-reliance is a primary focus. As North Korean government officials push North Koreans into environments that normalize oppression, Noel Kim is a North Korean refugee that “woke up” and managed to escape in 2009.

“There were slogans everywhere. They were painted on signs and printed on calendars and said things like ‘North Korea is a utopia,” Kim said. “‘We have nothing to envy in the world,’ and ‘Our dear leader Kim II Sung will always be with us.’ In North Korea, I never questioned these words or doubted the stories. I never wondered why we rarely had electricity or why sometimes there wasn’t enough food. I believed everything the regime told me — I really thought I had nothing to envy.”

In an effort to ensure that oppression and dictatorship doesn’t overshadow the North Korean culture and humanity, Chef Jee partnered with LiNK in a virtual DIY Kimchi Night fundraiser to raise funds for the mission and support North Koreans who are escaping the North Korean regime. Chef Jee shared her family Pogi Kimchi recipe for the fundraiser and educated the masses on the traditional method of traditional way sectioning, seasoning and fermenting the napa cabbage, to make outstanding Pogi Kimchi.

LiNKmills Team: Haifa Algabri, Ekua-Yaaba Monkah, Tara Rydingsward, Maryelin Recinos, Nurhaliza Mohamath, Nadia Bourdoud, Hoda Omar, Riya Rampalli, Sarah Kim, Jennifer Alexandre, Professor Hong, Dr. Mostafavi, & Dr. Jaime. 

Event sponsored by Chef Jee Kim| Liberty in North Korea (LiNK)| Mills College (MC) LiNK rescue team (LiNKmills)| LiNK rescue teams across the nation | Mills College (MC) Muslim Student Alliance (MSA)| (MC) Asian Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APISA)| (MC) Kapwa | (MC) Campanil | (MC) Google Developer Student Collective| University of San Francisco (MSA)| Mt. San Antonio College (MSA) |San Francisco State University (MSA)| University of San Francisco Middle Eastern and North African Club (MENA)|