Organization offers LiNK to those fleeing North Korea



3,000 miles and $3,000. This is how much it takes to escape North Korea. Or at least, that’s according to LiNK, or the Liberty in North Korea. The non-profit organization held a presentation at UNI to spread awareness of the challenges North Koreans endure. While the organization can’t do anything about North Korea’s government and the prison camps that enslave 80,000-120,000 people, Richie Elmore, who spoke on behalf of the organization, said they can help the refugees who seek safety outside the country.

Since it’s founding in 2004, members of the organization have been raising money to help Korean refugees make a 3,000 mile-long journey to escape, as well as help them establish careers and housing once they are out. It also raises money for educational grants so the escapees can be successful and self-sufficient in their new lives.

Elmore, part of the “Great Plains” nomad team, traveled across the Midwest to spread awareness for the Liberty in North Korea organization.

“Refugees are often thought of as helpless and pitied,” Elmore said. “But, we don’t see it that way. We see them as normal people with great potential.”

Although the organization was founded in 2004, Elmore said they didn’t begin refugee rescues until 2009. Within six years, he said members have helped 390 people flee from North Korea.

Elmore has traveled with his team across the U.S. giving presentations like the one that was given on Tuesday. Due to lack of resources, Elmore said the organization relies on the monetary support of donors. It costs about $250 to provide food and clothing during a rescue mission, $500 for transportation and $3,000 to fund the rescue mission itself. Elmore said he was seeking to have at least 500 people to commit to $5 per month donation for this cause.

Those in attendance included both college students and community members.

Freshman theatre major Brittany Bissa said she attended the event because she’s always had an interest in North Korea.

“I learned a lot from the presentation,” Bissa said. “I never knew that the refugee’s journey from North Korea was so long.”

According to Elmore, the organization tends to hold their presentations at colleges because of the interest the students have in social justice.

“College students are usually into activism and have a desire to get involved,” Elmore said. “We actually have a lot of rescue teams that were put together by students themselves.”

This presentation was paid for from the NISG’s diversity fund and was a part of the numerous events sponsored by UNI’s RISE Week, or Refugee and Immigrant Support and Empowerment.

Between the dates of October 5-8, various campus organizations held presentations that highlighted the struggles refugees and immigrants endure and how students and community members can help them. Examples, according the the official RISE Facebook page, include: “Be in the Know: The Refugee Crisis In Europe” held in the Multipurpose Room on Monday, which focused on refugee experiences and Europe’s response to the crisis; “Every DREAMer Has a Story,” which was a forum focused on immigration reform held Tuesday in the Maucker Union Ballroom and “Personal Accounts from Burma,” which involved Cedar Valley residents on a panel discussing their personal stories about the conflicts in Burma and how it has affected their lives.

To end RISE Week, there will be a final presentation given tonight at 6:30 in the State College Ballroom in the Mauker Union titled, “How Can We Help Our Neighbors?” looking at how anyone can get involved with local immigrant and refugee communities.