By BosNewsLife News Center
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife) -- Chinese authorities have released a Christian American businessman who served four years for aiding North Korean refugees, BosNewsLife established Friday, September 28.
Steve Kim, a furniture dealer from the Long Island, New York town of Huntington, had been importing products from China since 1987 and, while doing business there, became aware of the plight of the many thousands of North Korean refugees seeking shelter in China.
Instead of turning over the refugees to the United Nations, China hunts and returns them to North Korea, where they face uncertain and often harsh fates, including imprisonment, torture and executions, human rights groups and defectors have said.
Kim, who is not related to North Korea's ruling family, raised money and with support from his Long Island's Good Neighbor Community Church rented two apartments as shelter and fed starving North Koreans on a modern-day "underground railway" enroute to South Korea.
However Chinese security forces eventually discovered the network and Kim was arrested on September 26, 2003, along with nine North Koreans and two Chinese humanitarian workers. The Chinese were reportedly sent to jail for two years, but the fate of the North Koreans remains unknown amid concerns they have been repatriated and possible killed. Kim, however, was allowed to return home to his wife, Helen, and their three children.
"In most civilized countries, a person of Kimâ€™s compassion and concern...would have been lauded and praised and admired," wrote Suzanne Scholte, president of the US-based advocacy group North Korea Freedom Coalition, in an email published by The Christian Post online newspaper. "[But] Kimâ€™s compassionate actions in helping with the North Korea refugee crisis caused the government of China to hunt him down and jail him, charging him with illegally transporting aliens as he was helping North Korean refugees attempt to cross the border," she added.
Scholte recently participated in a North Korean Refugee rally in front of the United States Capitol urging Congress to pressure China to stop repatriating refugees from North Korea back to the totalitarian state.
At least half a million North Koreans are believed to have crossed the border over to China in the past 10 years, although Christian rights group Open Doors told BosNewsLife fewer people have been able to cross in recent months amid tighter security measures by Chinese and North Korean border guards.
In a commentary the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) newspaper said it understood that President George W, Bush accepted the invitation of Chinese President Hu Jintao "to attend next summer's Beijing Olympics -- to the anger of human-rights activists, who are calling for a boycott of the Games."
The WSJ came up with a suggestion: "Between now and then, the president might consider welcoming to the Oval Office Steve Kim" as a signal to China that it should respect international law. "Instead of turning over the refugees to the United Nations, as it is required to do under international law, China hunts them and returns them to North Korea, where they face uncertain and often harsh fates," the paper noted. (With reporting from China and BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).
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