National Geographic : 2009 Feb
• Mission, one of numerous Christian organiza- tions that have sprung up in South Korea to help defectors, Chun has masterminded the escapes of hundreds of North Koreans trapped in China, providing them sanctuary in South Korea, the U.S., and other countries. He belongs to a diverse group of activists, humanitarians, tra ckers, and fellow missionaries who operate the Asian underground railroad. Some hope to precipitate the collapse of North Korea; others want to con- vert North Koreans to Christianity. What binds most of them is the instinct to aid people under severe duress. " eir su erings in North Korea and China are indescribable," Chun says. "I have no choice but to help them." Pastor Chun is no stranger to the risks. In 2002 Chinese police, alerted by informants, arrested him near the Mongolian border, on the escape route he pioneered. Nine North Koreans he was guiding were also caught, sent back to North Korea, and never heard of again. e pas- tor spent eight months in a Chinese prison, a er which he was sent home to South Korea and White had waded across the river one Octo- ber night. She had been living in an industrial city in the northern part of North Korea with a sick mother and two younger siblings. She was o en hungry, unable to earn enough at her jobs, rst in a chopstick factory and then sell- ing fruit on the street. When a man approached her, offering work in China in the computer industry, the 26-year-old White naively agreed, thinking she d stay in China long enough to buy medicine for her mother. The North Korean broker drove her to a remote spot on the Tumen and told her to look for a car waiting on the other side. Shivering a er the crossing, she saw a car and jumped in, no questions asked. She had been tricked. White would spend the next year locked in a room selling sex. From his office two stories above a food market in Seoul, South Korea, Pastor Chun Ki-won had made the call---the signal for defectors to leave on the underground railroad---many times before. Founder of Durihana (Two Become One) INSTRUCTIONS TO THE DEFECTORS WERE SUCCINCT: STAY QUIET, PRETEND TO SLEEP OR HIDE IN A RESTROOM IF POLICE COME TO CHECK ID'S, AND PRAY TO GOD. CHINA I Under all-seeing eyes on an advertisement in a Beijing rail station (right), Chinese police often hunt for North Koreans attempt- ing to escape cross-country by train. Police crackdowns can net hundreds of victims. Lacking legal documents, Black (left) eluded official questioning during his harrowing 40-hour rail journey by pretending to be asleep or intoxicated.