The prestigious Stephen’s Prize this year will
go to a Christian activist who assists North
Korean refugees in China
The Stephen’s Prize 2008 will be awarded to Timothy
A. Peters, an American Christian activist living in Seoul,
South Korea. Peters is the leader of “Helping Hands Korea”,
an NGO providing aid and assistance to North Korean refugees
stranded in China.
Mr. Peters will receive the prize from the Norwegian NGO “Norwegian
Mission to the East” for his pioneering and courageous
work for these refugees, helping them find safe refuge and
freedom. Mr. Peters will come to Oslo in early November of
this year to receive the prize.
An estimated 300.000 North Korean refugees are living in fear
and hiding in China. They face the risk of being arrested and
forcibly repatriated to North Korea by Chinese authorities.
In North Korea, any attempt to flee the country is regarded
as treason against the nation. Categorized as a capital crime,
defection is punished very severely. Repatriated refugees are
often transported to the severe conditions of labour camps
where many die of exhaustion. Outright executions also occur,
especially when Christian refugees are discovered. Prior to
the Beijing Olympics, the authorities on both sides of the
border have made it almost impossible for would-be refugees
to escape the food-strapped North. Witnesses say that refugees
are now being shot and killed as they try to escape.
The focus of Helping Hands Korea is on practical welfare.
Food, clothes and medicine are distributed through Chinese
churches to the neediest refugees. Refugees who need protection
from the police get assistance to live in hiding. The most
vulnerable ones are offered logistical help to escape along
demanding and dangerous escape routes, either to Mongolia or
other neighbouring countries. Helping Hands Korea also places
a premium on sharing the Good News with the North Korean refugees
as an explanation for its motivation to do this work.
Mr. Timothy A. Peters often appears in the media to speak
on behalf of North Korean refugees. He and his organization
have been portrayed in many international publications, including
the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, International Herald
Tribune, Washington Times, BBC and ABC. On May 1, 2006 Mr.
Peters and his work along the “Underground Railroad” were
portrayed in a cover story of TIME magazine’s Asian edition.
Timothy A. Peters is a recognized and highly respected Human
Rights activist. In a Wall Street Journal article dated October
2007 he was suggested as a relevant candidate for the Nobel
Peace Prize. Mr. Peters, an American citizen, has been married
to his wife from South Korea for 33 years. Mr. Peters has been
working as a missionary and Human Rights activist for more
than 35 years – in South Korea, China, Japan, South America,
and the Samoan Islands.
On many occasions, Mr. Peters has endeavoured to influence
the US and other Western governments to take a far more active
involvement in protecting these “forgotten” refugees.
Among others, he has given testimony to the US Congress on
three occasions. The lion’s share of Helping Hands Korea’s
work involves highly practical measures to support and assist
families and individuals that face highly vulnerable and difficult
situations as refugees.