North Korean refugee women speak out about leaving children behind in China

Tongil Mom, a group comprised of North Korean refugee women working to be reunited with their children, spoke at the University in Charlottesville VA as coordinated by the human rights advocacy group Liberty in North Korea.

With the help of a North Korean translator, the women of Tongil Mom shared personal testimonies of how they defected from North Korea, their time in China as forced brides and how they eventually resettled in South Korea. Many North Korean women leave their country due to intense struggle and relocate to China, where they are often sold and forced to be brides for Chinese men. While these North Korean refugee women have children with these men, many are still forced by the Chinese government to go back to South Korea. This forced repatriation causes many women to never see their children again. Each woman who spoke at the event currently has a child in China from whom they are separated.

“I think that sometimes it’s easy to forget when all we see in American media is North Korean news about nuclear weapons and political issues. But the fact of the matter is that there are 24 million civilians that live in that country and they’re dealing with a lot of humanitarian issues so we should remember them and strive to support them,” Cameron Hicks, fourth-year College student and executive board member of Liberty in North Korea, said.

Tongil Mom has three main parts in its petition, which is directed to the governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of Korea. These include calling for proper identification papers for children born to North Korean refugees in China, humanitarian measures for mothers who defected from North Korea to be able to exercise rights as birth mothers to their children and giving these children the right to choose with which parent they live.

“Obviously, the Chinese government is not going to stop its policy of repatriation overnight, but I believe if we approach the people in China, the people with a [conscience], the people who believe in human rights in China and if we approach this using social media then we can definitely try to make a change regarding the situation,” Tongil Mom Executive Director Kim Jeong Ah said.

“We want to set up a website for children in China to look up the whereabouts of their mothers,” Ah said. “We have all of these ideas to reunite a lot of mothers so they can hug their children again, but we need all the help we can get.”

[The Cavalier Daily]

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