Exposing the atrocities

(Photo by Ryan Hueglin.)

(Photo by Ryan Hueglin.)

“I was nervous to come here and speak today.”

Jake, whose last name was withheld for safety reasons, visited Wilfrid Laurier University this past weekend to discuss his experience as a North Korean refugee at the North Korean Human Rights Film Festival (NKHRFF), and expose listeners to the lack of freedom and rights the citizens of the country possess.

Jake is 21-years old and currently resides in Toronto, working towards earning high school credits, takes English classes and hopes to one day become an engineer.

He left China in May 2011 after fleeing there with his younger sister to find his mother.

He had to quit school after his mom left his family and his dad was imprisoned, and looked after his sister and attempted to earn a living to survive.

Jake claimed he doesn’t “remember a lot” of his childhood. He suffered the consequences of the great famine and was subjected to abuse after stealing food to fulfill his constant hunger.

“People are so hungry that they do desperate things,” he said.

Jake, along with Gilad Cohen, the founder and director of the NKHRFF, and Randall Baran-Chong, the executive director of Han Voice, joined together at Laurier to engage students and raise awareness about what is occurring in North Korea.

Three films were shown to interested students that demonstrated the desperate conditions that North Koreans face on a daily basis.

The NKHRFF worked with the Global Youth Volunteer Network at Laurier to bring the films, which was the first chapter screenings to a student audience.

Cohen, a communications graduate from Laurier, explained that he had a travelled to South Korea after graduation to teach English.

While there, he visited North Korea for one day and experienced a life-changing moment.

“I did some research on the country and I was shocked and horrified,” he said. “What also horrified me was how little other people knew about.”

Cohen made it his goal to raise awareness of the conflicts and sufferings in North Korea by addressing the issues through film and art.

NKHRFF travelled to Guelph last week and hopes to go to McMaster later on in the month.

Back in September, they were invited to speak at the United Nations and presented the world premiere of a film called 48M.

Joanna Ciolfi, a member of the Global Youth Volunteer Network, explained the club’s desire to bring the films to campus.

“I like to consider myself a global person, but I had no idea that this was happening in North Korea, it just struck me,” she said. “We decided to bring the awareness here.”

Jake also appreciated the interest shown by students at the event.

“I wanted to do something for us, there are a lot of people who are suffering,” he said in an interview with The Cord.

He explained that it was not possible to stay in China as a refugee, so he and his sister chose Canada as a practical alternative.

“I believed I could find my future if I came to Canada,” he concluded.

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