Photo by Nikita Peker

Liberty in North Korea, commonly referred to as LiNK, is a large organization with a student-run chapter at Tech whose mission is to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis in North Korea throughout campus and the greater Atlanta area and to rescue North Korean refugees in China.

Thousands of North Koreans who wish to escape the political and economic repression of their country risk imprisonment or even death if caught.

However, due to China’s diplomatic relationship with North Korea, even if the refugees make it to China, they will be sent back to the North Korean prison camps if caught by the Chinese government.

LiNK was originally founded in 2004 at the Eighteenth Annual Korean-American Student Conference at Yale University in order to educate people about the current political and social situation of North Koreans.

So far, the organization, headquartered in Torrance, California, has rescued 756 North Korean refugees through a 3,000 mile modern-day underground railroad to a safe country.

This is all made possible through donations made by GT LiNK and other communities of LiNK, 100% of which go to funding the rescue programs.

Through initiatives, such as concerts, speaker events, movie screenings and bake sales, LiNK at Georgia Tech caters to the demographic in order to raise money for North Korean refugees.

“We do fund raising events as often as possible, aiming for once a week, and we donate money to LiNK headquarters,” said Su Young Park, third-year CS and Vice President of the Logistics Committee at LiNK. “It takes about $3000 to rescue one refugee and last semester, we donated almost $2000.”

The $3000 needed to rescue and resettle one refugee covers the full journey, which includes transit, food, clothes, shelter and resettlement.

While controversy in North Korean politics is a well known reality, there is a disconnect between the circumstances of North Korean refugees and the Tech community.

“Tech students are aware of the North Korean humanitarian crisis,” said Conner Surrency, fourth-year INTA and former-President of GT Liberty in North Korea. “The problem is that the media and Hollywood is so inundated with dramatized stories about it that they feel disconnected, deadened to it. It seems like a simple fact of life. We [LiNK] try to separate the people from the politics. We want to show students that they have a way to do something about the situation, to affect change and actually help people, that’s the opportunity that our Rescue Team provides campus, one donation at a time.”

As former President of GT LiNK for two years, Surrency feels a personal connection to
the initiative.

“As an International Affairs major, I wanted something with an international bent that wouldn’t be too ideological,” he said. “Liberty in North Korea was the perfect fit. Its goal is one that unites people from across the political spectrum and national borders, while personally appealing to my individualistic values.”

Student involvement is key to the success of the organization, as LiNK is centered around providing funding for refugees and awareness of the humanitarian crisis these refugees face.

“We do tabling in the beginning of the semester and do fundraising events and awareness events throughout the semester,” said Park.

“Members come to those events to volunteer and come to weekly meetings to organize and decide how to advertise our events and our organization. Other students can be involved by supporting our events by coming to our awareness events, purchasing or donating at our fund raising events and liking our Instagram and Facebook to get updates from our organization.”

LiNK’s fund raising events include selling Banh Mi sandwiches and Liberty in North Korea shirts. More information about the larger organization, including a donation link, can be found at libertyinnorthkorea.org