Rocky Kim knew the North Korean regime he was living under was seriously flawed and that he was determined to bring about change. That set in motion a series of events that saw him go from student activist to victim of torture to escapee on the run and, finally, a refugee in Canada.
Yet, now the Canadian government plans to deport him. And Kim is hoping Canadians will hear his story — and those of dozens of other North Korean defectors living there — and agree that they should be allowed to stay.
When Kim arrived in Canada, he took ESL classes, learned English and enrolled at George Brown College. He apprenticed in heating and air conditioning repair and now runs his own HVAC company. The well-dressed Kim proudly states that he pays his taxes and employs several workers. It sounds like the ultimate Canadian immigrant success story. But Kim is slated for deportation.
He’s currently in the process of a pre-removal risk assessment, which is a type of appeal those earmarked for deportation can make if they believe being sent back will put them in harm’s way. There are dozens of North Koreans living in the Greater Toronto Area who are now facing deportation.
But there’s a catch. They’re not being sent back to North Korea. They’re being ordered to get on a plane to Seoul, South Korea.
Many of the defectors in Canada lied on their refugee applications and said they came to Canada directly from North Korea. What Rocky Kim and others are at risk of deportation over is misrepresentation on their application, which is treated as a serious offense.
“The Canadian [government] needs to change its attitude to North Korean defectors,” says Jin Hak Choi, the former president of the National Unification Advisory Council in Toronto. “They have no country.”
It’s this argument — that North Korean defectors are really stateless people — that those up for deportation and their allies are hoping Canadians and the government will agree with.