by Genny Boots, News Writer
The nonprofit organization Liberty for North Korea (LiNK) visited Pacific Lutheran University Wednesday, Nov. 5. The social campaign movement arrived with posters, T-shirts and a message “to spread awareness and raise support for the rescue of North Korean refugees’ immigration to the U.S.”
North Korea is “the most repressed country in the world,” LiNK Nomad, a term for the organization’s members, Billy Arnold said. Set to snappy tunes and trendy visuals, Arnold and his colleague Marissa Paiva presented for more than an hour to nearly 50 PLU students in the Cave lounge.
Associated Students of Pacific Lutheran University and the Residence Hall Association were both contacted by LiNK last week to put on the event. Caitlin Dawes, RHA Social Justice Director was excited at how many people showed up.
“There were way more [people] than I expected,” Dawes said. “This whole thing was put together in a week and a half. Billy [Arnold] and Marissa [Paiva] made this happen.”
LiNK began as a student organization at Yale University in Connecticut. Soon, LiNK had chapters in universities across the country. From Yale, LiNK set up headquarters in Washington D.C.
“In D.C. they were trying to lobby to the big politicians,” Arnold said.
The organization moved to Los Angeles and started a massive rebranding in 2008. “Now, we do what the North Korean people want,” Arnold said.
North Korea is currently under the authority of dictator Kim Jong Un. Of the children living in North Korea, 28 percent are malnourished and many citizens endure incredible poverty. Citizens can be sent to political prison camps for speaking out against the regime. Estimates place 80,000 to 120,000 people in such prison camps, which “are possibly one of the worst places to exists as a human beings,” according to the presentation on Wednesday.
All of the profits that LiNK raises go to help a newer generation of North Koreans escape. The “Jang-ma-dang generation,” or the “market generation,” are the North Koreans who are roughly college-aged and have grown up with access to black markets and outside media.
These young people cross the northern border into China and from there, the journey is long. The refugees have to travel a 3,000 mile modern-day underground railroad before they officially become a “political refugee.”
If any of these individuals are caught while in China, they are automatically returned to North Korea and face life-threatening punishments. In order to achieve refugee status they must make it out of China and into any of the bordering countries.
To raise money for the organization, nomads like Arnold and Paiva go around the country speaking at universities, high schools and businesses. LiNK operates on a social media fundraising principal similar to the website “Kickstarter.” Interested people can put in their email and receive their own fundraising page to send out to friends and family members on various media platforms. This year, the goal is to raise $200,000, which will be matched by an unidentified donor.
Several PLU students put in their emails and many more were curious to learn about the programs LiNK offers for college students. Interested participants can go to http://www.libertyinnorthkorea.org for more information. For some, it was just a chance to support social justice on campus.
“I came out because I believe in social justice on campus,” senior Cole Chernushin said. “Showing up is 90 percent of it.”