By Rashida Ricketts
Five long months went by and the terrified 18-year-old boy’s nerves boiled to its highest point when there were still no signs that his mother would ever return home from the dangerous journey to China in November of 2004.
LiNK, Liberty in North Korea, an organization in North America devoted to North Korean human rights and providing protection and aid to North Koreans hiding in China, visited the College to share a video of Danny Lee’s story and ultimately spread the message that there is still hope for North Koreans.
Representatives Jena Talmadge and Kendra Akase came to share Lee’s story and the mission that LiNK has on college campuses.
Ten years prior to his story, in the mid-1990s, the North Korean government suffered a collapse, and as result many of those left ended up starving, while others left their families behind to make a better life for themselves in China. Lee’s mother was among those who stayed to support her son and mother.
Lee was only 8 years old, but vividly recalled being too weak from hunger to even step outside of the house.
No longer wanting to see her family suffer, Lee’s mom went on her 10-year journey between North Korea and China in order to find ways to bring a steady income to feed her family.
“I will never understand my mom and grandma’s sacrifice for me,” Lee said.
Lee’s mother took her final trip to China, and when she didn’t return, the 18-year-old left his grandmother and home in search of his mother.
His escape was a success, and it was in China where Lee was introduced to LiNK. LiNK helped Lee get to the U.S. Embassy in China safely and then to the United States.
“North Korea is actually a hopeful situation,” said LiNK volunteer Kendra Akase.
“Last year when LiNK visited campus, after hearing Lee’s story, a few passionate students decided that they wanted to make LiNK a club here on campus,” sophomore biology major Janice Kwon said.
“Unlike many other nonprofit organizations, LiNK informs people of where their money is going,” said junior international studies major Theja Varre.
LiNK has also provided reintegration services for the refugees now living in the United States or South Korea.
“We work with building community, traveling assistance, translation and assisting with scholarships,” Talmadge said.