Former NK Orphan Sends Thanks Email in English

Hungry to Learn

LFNKR members were excited to receive a series of emails in English from one of our former foster children, a North Korean orphan whom we sheltered in China, then helped escape to safety in South Korea. The young man, Chol Song Kim, was born 5 Feb. 1985. Although Chol Song received the bare minimum of education during his years of hiding, now that he is safe in South Korea, he is eagerly making up for lost time. He recently went to Australia for a short, intensive English course.

Here is his story.

Kato Hiroshi, Secretary-General of LFNKR (Life Funds for North Korean Refugees) met Chol Song for the first time in 1998 at one of LFNKR’s shelters located in a village far from Yanji, Jilin in China. He was an orphan in need of protection in Changbai Prefecture in China on the opposite shore from Haesan, Yangan Province. Kato made arrangements for the boy to live with several other North Korean orphans at the shelter managed by a Korean-Chinese missionary who had been working with LFNKR.

The Chinese police began actively “hunting” for North Korean refugees in about 2000, and all seven foster-children who had been protected at the shelter, including Chol Song, were arrested by a joint team of border guards and Chinese police in January and shipped back to North Korea.

In 2001, the seven children, including Chol Song, managed to escape again from North Korea and return to the Korean-Chinese missionary. The missionary and the foster-children moved around in Yanji to escape re-arrest by the Chinese police; however, they could find no safe place because of the intensified crackdown.

The seven were divided into groups, and each group went to a different large city, including Shanghai and Qingdao. It is easier for such children to hide in large cities. As they grew older, they faced another difficulty – it is extremely unlikely that they could look forward to happy lives in China, because the authorities will never allow them legal status. Even the cities were not safe for the children to stay for long, nor for the missionary himself.

When it became obvious that protecting the children in China was no longer practical, LFNKR decided to bring them out via Vietnam and Cambodia to their final destination, South Korea. The project to move the children, which began in June 2003, culminated in success in June 2004 when the project team and the children finally reached South Korea.

In South Korea, a Christian church with a dormitory provided the education needed for the children to pass an exam to certify their academic achievement as equivalent to junior high school graduates. After passing the exam, Chol Song left the church dormitory and entered a Global Village High School located in Pusan. This is a boarding school founded and run by churches for children of Korean ministers and missionaries who are engaged in missionary activities abroad.

Since those children, including Chol Song, had lived in hiding for years in China, they had received scant opportunity to acquire even the most basic education. No parents were ever there to help them study. English, in particular, was utterly new to them.

LFNKR members were concerned about the seven after they reached South Korea. During the summer vacation months, they have no homes nor families to spend time with. Fortunately, Chol Song met a kind teacher who invited him to his home during the last summer vacation to tutor him in English and math.

If Chol Song were to achieve dramatic improvement in his English study, he would need some kind of special motivation. One of his teachers told our group that the school could send Chol Song to Australia for a short-term English program if LFNKR could pay his expenses. One of the foster-parents of LFNKR (education sponsorship plan) began raising funds for this purpose, mainly by contacting the other members of LFNKR. To everyone’s delight, the 300,000 yen (about $2,550) needed to pay for his trip to Australia was collected much more quickly than expected.

While in Australia, Chol Song sent several emails to LFNKR, and more after his return to South Korea. His most recent note is quoted below:

March 3, 2007

dear Gattosang [Kato-san],

how have you been? i had a good time in Austailia.
I thank with my heart for your help.
we didn’t have a lot of time but had a good experience and learned alot.

i think if there is a another opportunity to visit other country that uses english
i would love to go there and have a time to study.
i think this kind experiences will improve my english alot.
i hope you take care of your self.

from Chol Song Kim