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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

N. Korea escapee speaks at UA

Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Demonstrators hold signs denouncing the North Korea government during a rally on the UA Mall Thursday Feb. 25 2010. The demonstration was organized by the student group Link to draw attention to the human rights violations occurring in North Korea.
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat Demonstrators hold signs denouncing the North Korea government during a rally on the UA Mall Thursday Feb. 25 2010. The demonstration was organized by the student group Link to draw attention to the human rights violations occurring in North Korea.

“”Free North Korea”” chants resonated across the UA Mall Thursday morning, as part of a rally sponsored by local churches and organizations, as well as student clubs UA LiNK, UA New Abolitionists and UA Navigators.

The rally began at 7 a.m. at Himmel Park, where about 100 people prayed for freedom in North Korea.

After a brief prayer, they marched down Speedway Boulevard to the Mall, where they handed out several fliers and spoke with those walking by.

Carina Groves, an international studies senior and one of the rally organizers, said that there were events happening all over the world this week in an effort to raise awareness.

A man attended the rally who escaped from North Korea. He is referred to as Tom to protect his identity.

Student organizations, churches and other local groups helped raise about $1,600 to fly Tom to Tucson to speak at various events throughout the week. The money came from donations of friends and family and was raised in about a week.

According to Groves, there are only 97 refugees in the U.S.

“”The fact that we could get one out here … it’s a really big deal,”” Groves said.

Tom flew from South Korea to speak in Tucson this week to promote freedom for North Koreans.

Tom came to the UA because of his friendship with Robert Park, a missionary who entered North Korea and was detained for more than a month. Park met Tom while in South Korea.

Park and others wanted Tom to speak and tell those in the Tucson community his story.

Tom made it to freedom with only one arm and one leg. He swam across the Tumen River between North Korea and the People’s Republic of China. He was heading south through China when Chinese officials caught him. Worried he was going to be sent back to North Korea, Tom prayed.

There happened to be a Korean translator nearby, who came up and asked if he could help.

The translator told the Chinese official that Tom was mentally ill and on his way to a mental hospital, so he was released.

He made it into Laos and had to cross by foot to Thailand with a crutch. He was captured and tortured before being released. He eventually made it to South Korea and has been living there for three years.

According to Tom’s translator, Jung Sook Kim, he came here to let people know about the serious human rights violations currently occuring in North Korea.

“”It is really impressive for me that the American community is concerned about human rights in North Korea,”” Kim said.

About a dozen organizations were part of the events that have been going on all week to spread the word about human rights violations in North Korea.

Even kids on Rodeo break came out to show their support.

Hannah Yoon, a seventh grader at Alice Vail Middle School, said she was there because of encouragement from her mom. Yoon’s family is originally from South Korea, and Yoon presumes she might have North Korean relatives.

Groves hopes the news of these rallies leaks into North Korea.

“”(We hope) they get the message that we are going to stand behind them when they are ready,”” she said.

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