American Exchange Student Talks On Helping The NorthThis year the world has witnessed frequent media coverage of North Korean escapees to China risking their lives to run away from starvation at home. Many have pitied these people and many were enraged by the situation in the North. However, outside of Korea, most people are more likely to see North Korea as part of an "axis of evil," rather than as a country in need of assistance. Katherine Anderson thinks this situation should change.
Anderson, an American exchange student from the University of Utah, came to Ewha at the beginning of this semester. Majoring in Political Science, she says she has always been interested in non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Therefore, the first thing she did at Ewha was to ask Professor Damien Horigan (Graduate School of International Studies) for a job at an NGO in Korea. Soon she was introduced to the founder and director of Helping Hands Korea, an NGO that helps North Korean refugees. She had no idea that she would find the work that would change her life.
While working for Helping Hands, Anderson came to understand the severity of the situation in the North. "Before I came to Korea, I knew only a little about North Korea. I don"t think I completely realized what was happening there until I worked for Helping Hands," she says.
According to Anderson, Helping Hands is a small organization that networks with NGOs in China, North Korea, and Japan. It provides financial aid to underground schools, churches, and activists in China and North Korea. Moreover, at the border between China and North Korea, it has established vocational schools where North Koreans can stay and be trained.
"I haven"t done any activist work yet. Now what I am doing is office work such as translating, attending conferences and fund-raising by selling tickets and paintings. But I"d like to do more active work in the future," says Anderson.
Anderson feels especially strong about the fact that foreign emergency food aid has been stopped due to the North Korean government?development of nuclear weapons. More and more North Koreans are risking their lives to seek refuge in China in order to escape starvation. "It"s?horrible that about a third of the whole nation is starving. The rest of them are hungry, too," says Anderson. She believes that this is a time when the North Korean refugees need a helping hand from their fellow Koreans more than ever.
However, Anderson knows just too well that there is an unbreakable wall that stands between the two Koreas. She says, "It seems that many older Koreans are in favor of reunification, but the majority of the people my age are apathetic or indifferent towards the North Korean refugees." As a result, says Anderson, "I want to promote the issue to young Koreans as well as to people abroad."
Anderson is the first student from the University of Utah to study at Ewha. She plans to be the first person to organize a club on North Korean refugees at the University of Utah. Ever since she came to Korea and found work at Helping Hands, her whole life has centered around work related to North Korea. Since she is a senior at her school, she is going back home this December to graduate.
Currently she is writing her senior thesis on North Korea and plans to come back to Seoul after her graduation next year. Though she will be outside of Korea for a short period of time, she says, "I"ll be thinking of North Korea through my thesis and club activity."
Anderson"s short-term goal is to raise the issue of North Korea with Koreans, especially Ewhaians. She believes that Ewha is a training ground for future leaders, so it is very important to enlighten Ewhaians about the situation.
Anderson plans to set up a table in the Student Union Building to provide information about Helping Hands. She says that there are many Koreans who are dedicated to this work, but more are needed. "I met a 20-year-old Korean girl at the conference. She had been working for two years on and off in China translating and helping people, despite the risk," she says, "They"re out there but there are not enough."
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