| The Korean Underground Railroad
With its riveting footage of a secretive underground railroad, Seoul Train is a riveting documentary about the life and death of North Koreans as they try to escape their homeland. Seoul Train is the definitive expos? into this growing and potentially explosive humanitarian crisis.
By combining verite footage, personal stories,
and interviews with experts and government officials, Seoul Train depicts
the flouting of international laws by major countries, the inaction and bureaucracy
of the United Nations, and the heroics of activists who put themselves in harm's
way to save the refugees.
Today, there are an estimated 250,000 North Korean refugees living underground in China. They escaped a food crisis and other persecutions at home that have claimed the lives of approximately 3 million in the past 10 years. As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stands idly by, the Chinese government-in direct violation of international laws to which it's a party-systematically arrests and forcibly repatriates hundreds of these refugees each month.
For a lucky few refugees, however, there is hope. A group of multinational activists has taken it upon themselves to create an underground railroad. Via a network of safe houses and escape routes, the activists-at great personal risk-help the refugees in daring escapes to freedom over thousands of miles of Chinese territory.
In Seoul Train, we meet the activists, learn of the risks they take for their refugees and for themselves, and see firsthand the toll their work takes on them. We also hear from the Chinese government, … from the UNHCR as to why it has failed to save even one North Korean refugee; from members of U.S. Congress that have publicly challenged both the People's Republic of China and the UNHCR. Among them:
Senator Sam Brownback, Chairman, U.S. Helsinki Commission. Brownback pushes for human rights reform throughout the world, including North Korea, China and Sudan. He's also the original sponsor and Senate champion of the recently enacted North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 (H.R. 4011) and the Darfur Accountability Act (S. 495).
Marine Buissonniere, Secretary General. Medecins
Sans Frontieres International, Doctors Without Borders (MSF/DWB). Now the Secretary
General for all of MSF/DWB, until 2003, Buissonniere was the regional representative
for MSF in Seoul.
Chun Ki-won, Underground Railroad Activist. This mysterious and secretive pastor works the underground railroad with more success than any other single activist. He has traveled and initiated new routes that have brought approximately 10 percent of the total number of North Koreans that have made it to South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. A former businessman, Chun was initiated into the North Korean refugee crisis during a business trip to the Yanbian area of China, near the North Korean border, where he saw the body of a North Korean that had been shot in the back trying to cross the Tumen River.
Kim Sang-hun, Underground Railroad Activist. Possibly the most covert member of the underground railroad, Kim a retired U.N. official, specializes in facilitating the escape of "high value" North Korean defectors that provide evidence against the Kim Jong-il regime for a future International Criminal Court tribunal.
Moon Kook-han, Underground Railroad Activist. Moon Kook-han specializes in making political statements as he leads refugee groups out of China. In 2001, he rushed a family of seven into the UNHCR office in downtown Beijing. With the Han-mi family, he stormed the Japanese consulate gates in Shenyang, China. He was also helping the ill-fated MoFA Seven, who were arrested by the Chinese and sent back to North Korea, where it is presumed some, if not all, have since died in concentration camps.
Tim Peters, Underground Railroad Activist
and Founder and Director, Helping Hands Korea. Gentle and soft-spoken,
Tim Peters is the glue that holds much of the underground railroad together. The
Michigan native is the moral compass of the effort, supporting the activities
of the underground railroad with funding, organization and guidance. Peters has
lived in South Korea off and on for more than 28 years, dedicating himself to
the service of the North Koreans. He is the founder and director of Helping Hands
Korea and the Ton-a-Month Club, which provides more than a ton of food per month
to North Koreans in the remote northern reaches of the country. To date, he has
far surpassed that goal and is, in fact, three years ahead of plan.
Tarik Radwan, Immigration Attorney. An immigration attorney specializing in refugee issues, Radwan has dissected the agreement between the UNHCR and China. He has concluded that there are several legal measures available to the UNHCR to force China's compliance with international refugee law, but that the UNHCR has chosen not to use them.
Suzanne Scholte, Vice-Chairman, North Korea Freedom Coalition
- A human rights activist fighting on behalf of North Koreans, Suzanne Scholte has directed her relentless energy to marshal U.S. policymakers to care about this issue, and she was one of the instrumental behind-the-scenes players in the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 (H.R. 4011).
Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, Underground Railroad Activist
- Norbert Vollertsen is a German medical doctor who has worked on numerous underground railroad operations. Prior to becoming an activist, Vollertsen provided medical relief within North Korea, stating, "Children were dying in front of my eyes." Notwithstanding his controversial tactics, his efforts have brought the plight of North Koreans to the world's attention.
Ron Redmond, Chief, Media Relations and Public Information Service, UNHCR. As the UNHCR spokesman, Ron Redmond attempts to explain the UNHCR's perceived apathy toward the growing crisis of North Korean refugees. He explains that without the support of U.N. member states, the UNHCR is rendered powerless, and he calls into question the political will of member states, namely the United States, to address the issue.
[Excerpted from an article at Itvs.org]