Rev. Timothy A. Peters has helped over 80 North Koreans escape from their oppressive life in North Korea. Many of these refugees have repatriated in China or other countries in East Asia, and have hidden their identities for safety. The touching stories of three North Korean refugees are shown here.


Yoo Chul Min

Yoo Chul Min

Yoo Chul Min was a ten-year old North Korean refugee, who had taken the risks of crossing the China-Mongolian border in 2001. On July 7, he died due to exhaustion and exposure to the severe conditions of the Mongolian frontier. The other refugees he had escaped with carried his body across the border.

According to Peters’ congressional testimony, which he gave in 2001, he had met Chu Min due to his work with Helping Hands while the boy was under the protection of Korean missionaries in a district in Northeast China. “I remember noticing how withdrawn this boy was. Because he had lived in China for over a year, he did not immediately strike me as malnourished and his clothes were clean. I noticed with some amusement that he would never take off his baseball cap, even inside the house of my friend. My curiosity grew into a little personal challenge to spend some time with him and see if I could find a way to break through that shell of suspicion of foreigners and get a friendship started.” One day, Peters found a Korean picture Bible on the missionary’s bookshelf. At first Chul Min was wary of sitting next to a foreigner but he gave into his curiosity and started to read aloud. This was the start of their friendship.

After Chul Min’s death, his father, who had recently come to South Korea as another refugee, visited his son’s grave and mourned.

Back Up to Refugees

Kim Myong Suk

In February of 1998, Kim Myong Suk had escaped from North Korea to China. There, she married a Chinese peasant. However, in October of that year, she was discovered by the Chinese police and she was sent back to North Korea. There, she was sentenced to three years in a labor camp. Food was scarce and the conditions were severe. Late in the winter, she was five months pregnant with her husband’s child when one of the guards beat and kicked her repeatedly in the stomach. Her unborn child was killed and eventually removed. She was released after a year and a half under a special amnesty decree.

She went to live in Onsong, which is a town near the border with China, and in March 2002, she escaped to China again. There, she remarried to a Chinese-Korean translator and stayed for a while. However, the fear of being arrested troubled her. In October 2005, she met Kim Sang Hun, who is part of Helping Hands, or the Underground Railroad. Kim Sang Hun then worked with Tim Peters to come up with an operation to help Kim Myong Suk escape from China. This operation would be called Seoul Train. Peters had raised $1500 for the operation and recruited four people to help. Kim Myong Suk successfully made it to Bangkok and on March 26, she went to Seoul for a reunion with her mother.

Back Up to Refugees

Park Myong Ja

Park Myong Ja is also a North Korean refugee who reached Seoul in 2004. In the TIME article “Long Walk to Freedom,” she said that it only cost her 100 yuan, or $12.50 to bribe a guard stationed at the border to cross into China.

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