Hey guise,

As some of you in Seoul might remember, a few months ago we did a fundraiser event for Liberty in North Korea, and we raised a decent amount of money for them. Now that it’s Project for Awesome season, we were hoping to do a little bit more.

When a lot of people think of North Korea, their first response is to think about nukes and crazy dictators, which is true, but it overshadows the bigger issue in North Korea, which is the humanitarian crisis going on there. Liberty in North Korea helps the people in North Korea, and we’re hoping that we can help out with Liberty in North Korea as a result.

We’ve teamed up to make this video and this post. The rest of it from the next paragraph onwards is written by them, which I only think is fair, because they have a better vocabulary than we do when it comes to describing what’s happening in North Korea and what they’re doing to help. Give it a read. Even if you can’t help with clicking, hopefully we can at least raise awareness of the situation:

Liberty in North Korea (LiNK) is an international NGO that works for the North Korean people. Based in California, with staff in South Korea, New York and Southeast Asia, they work to shift the international focus away from Kim Jong-un and nuclear weapons and on to the people who are driving grassroots change in their country. They also work to support that change from the bottom up.

How do they do that? Well, simply put, they EMPOWER THE PEOPLE.

When a North Korean decides to risk their life to make an escape over the border into China, they are still not safe. Refugees caught in China are sent back to North Korea to face the sometimes fatal consequences of their ‘treason’. Those that hide in China lack any basic rights and are vulnerable to extortion, human trafficking and exploitation.

LiNK helps bring these refugees to safety. They work within a secret 3,500 mile rescue route assisting North Koreans out of China and into Southeast Asia, from where they can resettle to countries where they can be safe and free. Many North Koreans then begin their new lives in South Korea and America.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Adjusting to a new culture and society can bring many challenges. LiNK helps with this resettlement process, assisting with their education and connecting them to support systems and opportunities so they can fulfill their potential in their new lives.

Many defectors have family and friends back in North Korea. In turn, they use their new-found freedom to support these loved ones. They are even able to send funds through broker networks back in to North Korea, and the significance of this money is huge. Not only does it cover the basic needs of many that receive it, it also provides opportunities never before available to them. It empowers them to participate in the newly formed markets.

For decades, the North Korean government mandated that people depend on the regime for their basic needs–food, clothing, supplies, etc. However, due to economic decline the North Korean government could no longer supply even the most basic of items to their people, such as rice. As a result, resourceful North Koreans turned to selling what they could on the black market and began importing goods from China. Many of these market activities are still illegal, but as time goes on, the markets have become entrenched and the authorities have no choice but to accept these flourishing local economies.

Why are these markets significant?

Not only do these markets empower the people to purchase basic necessities once more but they also increase the flow of outside information into the country. DVDs, USBs, computers, cell phones, radios, and other banned materials are bought and sold in these markets. These technologies are used to learn about the outside world, improve businesses, and to connect with family outside North Korea – all things forbidden by the regime.

South Korean broadcasts can be heard on these illegal radios. South Korean and American films and dramas are also very popular. Many North Korean defectors have cited this contact with the outside world as the spark that caused them to question the ruling regime. The world as presented to them their whole lives is in stark contrast to the one they can now see.

You can help!

This video is competing in Project for Awesome‘s 2013 YouTube competition. The videos with the top views in the 48 hours of December 17-18 can win TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars for their charity! So just by watching and sharing this video, you can help CHANGE A LIFE! ….. TWEET IT! SHARE IT! RE-POST!

This video was made with the support and efforts of the Seoul Rescue Team. We are an all-volunteer group here in South Korea that promotes the work Liberty in North Korea does. If you are interested in joining us in supporting this life-changing work, you are welcome to donate on our group fundraising page HERE.

100% of these donations are used to fund rescues. It takes $2500 to bring one refugee hiding in China safely to freedom. These funds are used for transit, food, broker payments, lodging, and other necessities. For an exact breakdown of how funds are used, visit this page for more information. Liberty in North Korea is a registered 501(c)3 and donations are tax deductible.”

  1. Hi Simon and Martina! I just wanted to say THANK YOU so much for bringing this to our attention. This is such an amazing organisation.

  2. I heard about a story about a North Korean Defector looking to run for a spot in South Korea’s Parliament? Is that True?

  3. Too bad I missed the voting period… Anyone know when/where the charities who get the money will be announced? I looked at the P4A website but it was a bit unclear to me.

  4. Kind of topical tangent, but I just saw the funniest tweet from a South Korean who said that Dennis Rodman is trying to reenact that episode of 30 Rock where Tracy is friends with Kim Jong-il.

  5. I’m late but hoping I can help. This is a good cause.

  6. I’m part of a LiNK club at my university. The human rights situation in North Korea is abominable, and things don’t get much better after refugees make the all too dangerous trip across the border into China. Thank you Simon and Martina for promoting this incredibly worthy cause.

  7. I love to spread this story for getting helps… just hope this project will send this funds and actual volunteers who can go and help them to settle down – check money are going to correct family through correct way. Because I remember that collected money from my school to north korea didn’t go to poor children, yet head of governors used it to buy more weapons for North Korean Army… it’s long time ago but not that long ago.. like a decade, not decades. Really I am praying for hope this project is going to grow to help them more efficiently and precious way. As simon and martina describe hope they can start to get more cultural changes more.

  8. For anyone who wants to get more involved with activism in groups that work with defectors here are some I found-





    It would be really nice if you all could interview defectors and people who work with them and find out how people can get more involved in the refugee community whether in the South or the US. Also, for anyone interested in helping with refugee’s just look in your local area of law offices that deal with refugees or non-profits that help. I know my town has some places that you can get involved with so I’m sure lots of cities do. Get involved. Don’t just spam the internet and later forget!

  9. I made a comment about this and it’s now gone. Wtf? I’m just going to leave this instead of retyping it again to my own blog about this-


    All about defectors- http://littlepinky82.tumblr.com/post/70324032812/my-thoughts-on-liberty-north-korea

    Fyi one story I share about is from a young man who escaped with his brother. The govt knew they escaped and monitored their father. The father was ill and couldn’t make the journey which is why he stayed. He ended up getting tortured and he died a few days later in his home. If this girl was sending money to her family they would have been monitored too. Lisa Ling’s documentary she asks a young man about his family back home and he says “I’d rather not talk about it.”

    • Your original comment is actually right below this one as I see it right now I think, so long as your user is “@LittlePinky82:disqus” ~_^

      I was about to comment along the same lines though. I’m not saying this isn’t possible because I’m not an expert in the subject but I did start wondering about how all these huge sums of money are being wired to their families without going undetected? There is no way that the families can have part of their family go “missing” and then all of a sudden obtain wealth, gradual or not, there will be a point where it is too noticeable to go unpunished – right?

      • I see it now. I thought it somehow got deleted but this whole thing kind of confuses me sometimes with how they order comments and stuff. So I found it after I made the comment. I thought I was logged in and deleted it? But I guess I wasn’t and didn’t realize it. Sorry Simon and Martina! *facepalm* I mean exactly though. That’s my whole thing. I’ve listened to my share of defectors talk about this and I haven’t heard any of them talk about sending back money. Do they exist? Perhaps. According to the Ministry of Unification in 2012 just under 24,000 have escaped. I just haven’t heard of it happening before. It’s way too dangerous. I shared a video else where, if you want to find it, of two young brothers (like their late teens or early 20’s) who escaped. Their father was ill so he couldn’t make it and stayed behind. As soon as they left the authorities knew they had escaped and were monitoring their father. ALL phone calls in the DPRK are monitored as well. Doesn’t matter who you are. Visitor or the most loyal citizen in the country. The govt is so damn paranoid. The young man talks about how they were looking for him and his brother which is why they were watching their father. One point they took their father in to question him and ended up torturing him and took him back home where he died a few days later. The young man was able to establish contact inside the DPRK once he got to South Korea and found out how his father was and that he was being watched by the govt. Some defectors talk about their families back home and some just say they’d rather not talk about it. It seems too painful. How did she get all this money? The last time I checked the South Korean govt had a ban on hiring defectors (which isn’t helpful imo and I don’t understand why). So unless things have changed in the past yr or two there’s no way she could have gotten all this cash on her own unless this org was helping her. Just smuggling in anything is very risky and dangerous. There are guards at the border where they escape and trade. People will swallow things so they don’t get caught (esp with things like thumb drives). So how could you get all this cash in? You can’t even get in a thumb drive without swallowing it and pooping it out later. The video claims it took six months to escape. It takes six months to get a social security card alone. How long do you think it takes to get from the border in China to Thailand? The story just doesn’t match what other defectors have talked about. There are plenty of video’s on youtube about defectors leaving. They all say pretty much the same thing even if their reasoning’s for leaving are different. One man left who was a guard and he sure as hell didn’t try to establish contact back in the DPRK out of fear of being found and taken back.

        • Very interesting, good food for thought.

          Could it be possible though, that doubts about this particular cause are mainly due to the way the video was presented? I think, honestly, that the video made the situation seem “too bright”, if you will, for the situation. Their focus on the “huge sums” of money and the “free flow” (these are not quotations to quote the video directly) of technology in the market seemed to cast a shadow over the fact that these are very much underground dealings. It sounds kind of weird saying something seems too bright but I think there comes a point where it becomes exaggeration and doesn’t build proper context around a situation.

        • I’ve just been reading, listening, and watching anything and everything I can about the DPRK for several yrs now. I’m a socialist so I wanted to know more about the DPRK so that’s what intrigued me about them at first. And imo they definitely have nothing to do with socialism. It’s a dynasty and military power rules there cause they have no economy cause the govt is so paranoid about anything with the outside world. Some fears are understandable and all but most are just unfounded. If they would realize that perhaps they wouldn’t be so harsh about things and things could change. I think that’s what would make things change there.

          I don’t think so. I didn’t pay attention to any of that. I listened to what they were talking about and things just don’t make any sense. Like with the money. The govt in the DPRK has always seemed to know about everything including when people leave. They watch the border with China where people use to escape/trade and China watches the border. It’s dangerous during the day so people always seem to leave at the deep hours of night. If this family out of nowhere in months time was getting larges sums of cash it would be too suspicious by the govt authorities. Yet I’m supposed to believe they weren’t questioned or tortured about this? The govt didn’t know the girl left where they did for everyone else? They questioned and tortured other people’s families to try to find them but not this girl? What makes her so special? And the underground market is not new. I’ve known about it for a couple of yrs now.

  10. I’m sorry but all this reminds me too much of the Kony 2012 thing that turned out to be a scam. Whatever happened to that anyways? People did the same thing. Spammed the shit out of the internet to “get rid of Kony” even though he hadn’t been in Uganda for a couple of yrs (he was in neighboring countries). This video left out a lot of things and also is misleading in some. For ex, the market the voice over talks about is NOT new. It’s been around for a couple of yrs now. People go there to trade anything and everything they have. It is not about going against the govt but about surviving to buy food and clothes and other needed items because there’s no economy in the DPRK (however, Kim JongUn is wanting to change that). I also am doubtful of this girl’s claim that she sent tons of money back to the DPRK in months. It would be too suspicious. I’ve listened to other defectors (you can find their video’s on youtube) and it’s very dangerous. It’s already been brought up but I also recommend Lisa Ling’s documentary “Inside North Korea.” About halfway through she starts talking about escaping the DPRK and how dangerous it is. A pastor in Seoul helps out along with paid individuals and volunteers who do missionary work. It can be very expensive. For the smuggling in money there’s only one way to really smuggle in stuff and that’s through the river talked about with China. It’s well known for being an escape route/trade route and as such the military has guards there so you have to be careful. I believe it was Ling’s doc where she showed someone smuggling in a thumb drive and they swallowed it so they wouldn’t get caught. If you’re caught escaping you could be put to death or in a labor camp. Other defectors have talked about how they had to completely cut off ties to their families because it’s too dangerous for them to be in contact and/or they fear getting found and taken back to the DPRK. If this girl was sending back all this money it would be too suspicious and her family could get thrown in a labor camp or probably executed would be my guess. There’s so many holes with this. I don’t want people to get scammed again with another fad campaign where lots of money is supposed to be raised and then the people just disappear. There are real people who have been doing this work for a long time. You can see them on youtube. My post about this- http://littlepinky82.tumblr.com/post/70324032812/my-thoughts-on-liberty-north-korea Oh and also a couple yrs ago I started hearing about South Korean culture becoming popular even in Pyongyang. Even politicians and their kids were enjoying things like singing happy birthday like they do in the South, Girls Generation was rumored to be popular and trot pop music as well as historical dramas. I never heard any reliable reports about people getting killed for it. Speaking of all this I think it would be really nice if you guys interviewed people in Seoul who do this work. They seem very approachable and I’m sure they’d love to talk!

  11. This documentary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cVOrUMWaJ0) really raised awareness of what the reality of an escape from North Korea is like. It made me really passionate about the subject. If you are interested in learning more about this cause then I recommend it, as well as a book called Nothing to Envy. I’ll share this video and encourage others to do so as well. Thanks for supporting such a great cause and raising awareness of a situation I could not imagine living in.

    • I also recommend this- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zrebN7mV8o

      He talks about leaving and the difficulty and how his father was monitored when he and his brother left. The govt knows when people leave. So why didn’t this girl’s family get monitored? If they were having all this cash flow in from nowhere it would be suspicious.

      • Hi, Yes I’ve seen this also, the accounts of reality in North Korea are all compelling and the BBC documentary in particular has always stayed with me. I suspect the example in the video is a composite example and not a specific one.

        Sadly it is the case that some people who have finally gained access to the outside world in one way or another, by receiving money, phones or internet access have been publically executed. It must be a really hard choice if you escape as to whether you send assistance to family members knowing that they may be being monitored and it could result in execution for them. But how would you just leave them? I’ve also heard of family members being punished for a member of the family escaping even with no extra contact.

        North Korea is highly secretive and it’s hard to get detailed information easily but something has to be done. I don’t have the answers but no one should be forced to live under a regime that they do not agree with.
        You mention that this reminds you of the Kony movement but to me it really doesn’t, mainly because this is a situation I have been interested in and concerned about for years. It is well documented in mainstream media (as opposed to coming to most people’s attention via one video on the internet. Now I’m certainly not against things coming to people’s attention via the internet but for me this seems to have a solid grounding of information behind this movement and, as such, I’m very happy to support it and bring it to people’s attention.

  12. This video definitely made me cry. Let’s work towards getting in the top ten charities!

  13. It’s hard for some of us to imagine what that must be like. They have to go through all of that and some people won’t even click a share button? I’m all for helping this organization out! I think this is awesome, we should all try to help out as much as we can, seriously!

  14. Thank you for using your kpop powers for good! It’s so easy for the kpop community to forget about South Korea’s northern neighbors, and that makes me really sad.

    For my final in communications, we had to present a persuasive speech “urging your audience to adopt an action” and I did my whole speech on North Korea and helping the people of North Korea. I directed my class to LiNK because I strongly believe in their message and I love how they both inform the world and work to personally help the victims. I bought a hoodie from their store, and I plan on supporting LiNK for as long as necessary.

    Needless to say, video shared and I hope you guise can make it to the top 10 videos.

  15. Hey guys, SUPER GREAT, IMPORTANT CAUSE! ;O; So glad you’re working with such an important charity!

    I just wanted to point out that a couple of really important links in the final two paragraphs or so are non-existent! Like where we can donate as individuals, or the break-down of costs! It’d be great if those links were added! :D

    Already sharing the heck out of this, I really hope it helps those individuals! We are so lucky to live in such a free society, I can’t even imagine a forced-labour camp there, or even many of the living conditions there.

  16. Hey Simon and Martina, I just wanted to let you guys know that I used your images in an Imgur post to promote the P4A video and LINK. I hope that is okay!! Here is the post: http://imgur.com/gallery/hITl9 Best wishes from Seattle!

  17. A huge thank you to you guys! I’ve been associate with LiNK and set up a rescue team back home with few of my friends. As we tried to raise awareness and gather more members we thought that the local k-pop community would be a good try. However when we contacted the organizers of a big k-pop event about putting up a poster or sharing flyers we were turned down since our issue was regarded too off-topic and heavy for them. So thank you for reminding people that the Korean peninsula includes so much more than pretty boys and girls dancing in silly helmets. (Btw, around a month or two ago LiNK was looking for volunteer ESL-teachers for North Korean refugees in Gyeonggi-do area if anyone’s interested, though I don’t know about their situation now.)

  18. I don’t know why but I cried at the end…. I’m so sharing this over and over again

  19. Another thing I hope people will consider when giving to LiNK is that the vast majority of defectors arrive in South Korea with a debt of around $7,000. This debt comes from brokers who help them escape. The brokers need this money to pay bribes to security guards and safe houses. There is still an underground railroad out there. The thing that LiNK does, that in my mind makes them the very best possible charity in the world, is they use the funds they have raised to pay for everything. When a defector gets to work with LiNK, they can start their life in South Korea (or sometimes the US) without a huge debt.

  20. Also, if anyone is curious…..David Guttenfelder is the chief Asia photographer for the Associated Press (and one of my personal favorites) and he’s in Pyongyang every few weeks. I have absolutely no idea how, but he’s been allowed to photograph and Instagram photos from inside. http://instagram.com/dguttenfelder

  21. EYK working with LiNK makes me feel all warm and fuzzy! Coincidentally, last May (before I became a Nasty) I did my undergrad senior thesis on the the various theories regarding ways to incorporate human rights into the international conversation on North Korea, and LiNK was one of my big research resources. It’s so incredibly frustrating to follow the multilateral talks between the US, China, DPRK, ROK, Japan, Russia, etc. and not see human rights mentioned once despite conditions being absolutely horrible. Every country has their own political and economic interests, but it should be about people and not politics! Sharing the crap out of this video!

  22. Shared, love this grassroots change. We have tried blocking out dictators, it just makes them live longer.

  23. I shared this with others!

  24. I live to see the day when the problem will be solved

  25. I’m going to have this video on its own playlist and have it on repeat all the time. :)

  26. Shared this on Facebook and Tumblr, thank you for raising awareness of this. It’s easy to forget the situations that other people deal with when you go about your daily life so something like this is an amazing way of highlighting it and helping to prevent these issues <3 Love you guys! And thank you again, as soon as I get money I'll donate as much as I can to this cause!

  27. This is great guys… When I first heard about the conditions of North Korea, I was shocked that people lived like that. I’ve watched a couple of documentaries about people going into North Korea. Of course you don’t get to see the majority of people living in terrible conditions. they’re hidden from outsiders completely. They show foreign visitors only the ‘best’ of North Korea. Which is practically just 50s ghost towns, patriotic museums, military facilities and students in buildings on 80s computers listening to The Beatles. Yeah North Korean government, your country is amazing, we get it… -_-
    But the civilians there, although confused from propaganda, are really nice hard-working people. I just want to take them away and put them somewhere safe. I’m glad this campaign exists. Sharing away! ^-^

  28. Wow….. This kind of stuff makes me speechless.

  29. my mouse wont work after i shared the hell out of this video >.<

  30. Hey guys ! A few months ago, I came across the story of this north korean man who escaped from a camp. It really broke my heart. Being a fan of Kpop and Korea (well, South Korea) I cannot accept that huge difference between the comfort and the security South and North Koreans have. It is unfair. Everybody deserves a decent quality of life. I didn’t know what to do to help though, so thank you for taking part in this project and giving us an opportunity to change things. I shared it with my family and my friends.You have all my respect and my support from Switzerland :)

  31. Wow, I’m so close to crying, really. I’m so happy you guys made this video. I don’t know why, but the crisis in NK has always concerned me the most and I seriously hope that I’ll still get to see a freed North Korea in my lifetime. Anyhow, I shared this everywhere I could. I hope this video will win….

  32. I’ve shared on every platform that I could. Oh wait, *goes to AFF…now I have.

    I cried. I thought of everything I take for granted, like the choice whether or not to watch a drama or use the internet. I’ll do as much as I can to spread this message. I can click a mouse. It’s the least I can do.

  33. Let’s Go Nasties! Share the hell out of this video!

  34. Omg please tell me their not the only ones trying not to cry because of this video T-T

  35. (Copy, Paste & Tweet this guys)
    #P4A2013 http://youtu.be/I9HDVoi6n0g Please Retweet to help 24 Million People in this Liberty in North Korea Awareness Campaign!

  36. If you’ve never read the book Escape From Camp 14, I highly recommend it. It’s a very well-organized biography of one man’s experience and escape from a North Korean internment camp.

Related Latest Trending