Melbournians: Your Call To Action!

Hello Melbournians!

Just a quick reminder that my final fundraiser is on this Thursday night, and I'd love it if you could come! I fly out to begin my voluntary work on Saturday, and it'll be a great night in support of a great cause.

Tickets are on sale now, and need to be booked soon-ish (read: now!) so that I can confirm details for Public Liability insurance. Please help out by spreading the word to your Melbourne friends, blog readers, facebook friends, tweety followers, etc!

Here are the details:

WHAT: Movie Fundraiser: Crossing
WHEN: Thursday, 3rd June 2010 @ 7pm
WHERE: Kaye Coghlan Theatre, Thornbury High School, 238 Collins St, Thornbury
HOW MUCH: $15 (full) - $10 (concession) - $120 (group of 10)
TO BOOK: Call 0401 766 348 or email thatLiNKproject@gmail.com


Don't forget that if you can't make it along, you can always donate via PayPal- every dollar makes a difference!

Thank you in advance!

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Get Involved: thatLiNKproject Fundraisers!

Are you changing the world next Thursday night? How about the one after? I am, and I'd love it if you could join me!

As a LiNK volunteer, I am running two fundraisers to support my Nomad Project to make a difference in North Korea. Check out the details below, and come along! If you're not from Melbourne, you can always support the project in other ways, such as by donating via PayPal (button in the right-hand sidebar).

LIGHT UP FOR LINK: A CRAFT CLASS THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE!
Come along to this gorgeous craft class, where you'll receive beautiful handmade paper from Papers By Pepperberry and be taught how to create your very own Paper Lampshade.

As if crafting, creating, chatting and giggling isn't enough, you'll also receive a lampshade base and lampshade pattern to take home, as well as have all of the tools and materials provided. And did I mention that all of the funds raised support a great cause? What's not to love! So, grab your friends, family, kids and any randoms you find on the street and come along:

WHAT: Light Up For LiNK- a Craft Class that makes a difference!
WHEN: Thursday, 27th May 2010 @ 6.30pm - 8.30pm
WHERE: Kaye Coghlan Theatre, Thornbury High School, 238 Collins St, Thornbury
HOW MUCH: $30 (full) - $20 (concession)
TO BOOK: Call 0401 766 348 or email thatLiNKproject(AT)gmail.com

Click on the flyer to check out it in all of its glory,
and save it to your computer so you can email it to all of your friends!



CAN WATCHING A MOVIE MAKE A DIFFERENCE? WATCHING THIS ONE CAN!
Enjoy a night out watching one of the most powerful movies ever made, whilst also raising much-needed funds to help end the human rights abuses & humanitarian crisis in North Korea.

Based on a real-life story, Kim Tae-kyun’s Crossing tells the tale of a North Korean defector & his desperate fight to save his family. An uncompromising, touching & inspiring movie, its depiction of the harsh reality of life in North Korea will touch your heart & move your soul. Don't miss it!

WHAT: Movie Fundraiser: Crossing
WHEN: Thursday, 3rd June 2010 @ 7pm
WHERE: Kaye Coghlan Theatre, Thornbury High School, 238 Collins St, Thornbury
HOW MUCH: $15 (full) - $10 (concession) - $120 (group of 10)
TO BOOK: Call 0401 766 348 or email thatLiNKproject(AT)gmail.com

Click on the flyer to check out it in all of its glory,
and save it to your computer so you can email it to all of your friends!


I hope to see you there! Also, please help out by spreading the word- tell all of your friends and then tell them to tell all of their friends!

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The Why: All About My Nomad Project

7:34 PM Posted by Sandra 0 comments
I had always been vaguely aware that there were significant humanitarian issues in North Korea. On a cold day in 2009, however, that vague awareness was shattered when I was introduced to the harsh reality of what was actually happening in the country.

I was surfing the internet at the time, using StumbleUpon to find new & exciting websites. One of the topics that I regularly surf through is ‘Activism’, and that’s the channel that I was on when I came across an article about the crisis in North Korea. It detailed the atrocities that were occurring right under my nose, the lack of international response to the situation, and the desperation of the people involved.

As I explored the crisis further, plans that I had had for the day ahead disappeared. I read article after article, watched videos that brought me to tears, found stories from survivors, and was touched by tales of underground bloggers and journalists. I couldn’t put my computer down, and by the time the night came, I was convinced beyond a doubt that I somehow had to become involved in the solution to what I now knew was a massive problem.

Throughout my research, I kept coming across one organization that was making a noticeable difference to the people of North Korea: LiNK. I was inspired by the fact that unlike other organisations, LiNK didn’t simply fight from afar; they were on the ground, assisting people to escape from the country, supporting them to develop educational and workplace skills, and helping them to relocate and live lives full of freedom and choice. By the end of that fateful day, I was a monthly supporter of LiNK.


One day in April this year, on a morning like any other, I received my regular email update from LiNK. This time, the update was a little bit different to normal. Although there were still inspiring stories of change that had been created as a direct result of supporters, there was also a call to action: Become A LiNK Nomad.

A nomad? I thought. What's that?


Off I went to the
LiNK Nomad website, where I found a little description that read:

North Korea is one of today’s least known yet most complicated crises; but where skeptics would argue that the future of North Korea is already written, a collective of passionate individuals – LiNK Nomads – are standing to say that the ink is not yet dry. They refuse to adhere to prescribed formulas and have instead chosen to bring this crisis out of the shadows to empower more North Korean refugees.

Don’t wait for others to be the change. Be on the frontlines, rewriting the history of North Korea. Are you ready to make this your story? Become a Nomad...


Above this description was a video, and it was a video that ended up changing my life:

Nomads: The Call To Action from LiNK.

LiNK Nomads travel across the USA in a van, reaching out to anyone they can. By raising awareness and raising money, they are creating change for those suffering in North Korea.

I soon learnt that Nomads were individuals who spent 3 months volunteering with LiNK to raise awareness about the horrors in North Korea and funds to help support the incredible work that LiNK does. They do this by embarking on a road trip across the beautiful United States, where they host movie screenings, present speeches, and get LiNK merchandise out into the world. This collective action results not only in more and more people being inspired to make a difference to the lives of North Koreans, but also helps to get money together to assist people to escape from the regime.

Within a week, I had submitted my application. Within another, I had been accepted. In two weeks, I am off to the United States to change and save the lives of people I might never meet, but who I now know will experience a freedom that I take for granted on a daily basis. Join me on this incredible journey by following this blog, coming to one of my fundraisers, donating to support my Nomad Project via PayPal, or simply letting your friends know about what you've learnt about North Korea.

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P.S. The haunting images in this post were sourced from CompleteAll.

The Who: About LiNK

In the mid-1990s, over a million people died on the other side of the world, and hardly anybody noticed.

Millions starved, hundreds of thousands were imprisoned in concentration camps, and tens of thousands crossed borders seeking food, money, protection and even freedom that they never knew existed. That place was, and continues to be, a land with virtually no freedoms - of speech, assembly, religion, movement and more.

This is North Korea, and very little has changed since then. It is the Holocaust of the 21st Century.

In 2001, as more North Korean refugees made the harsh and dangerous trek to free nations, information about the human rights and humanitarian crisis in North Korea began to spread all over the world. Defectors began to testify before major institutions, books were written and reports compiled – all corroborating testimonies of human rights atrocities in North Korea.

In 2004, two passionate individuals learned about what was happening and felt a burden to share with the rest of the world what had gone unnoticed for too long. Educating a group of college students and young leaders about the crisis, together they formed LiNK (Liberty in North Korea) with the hope of spreading awareness and effecting real change. The organization quickly grew and became a movement of activists empowered by the stories of refugees and motivated by the urgency of the issue.

LiNK exists so that one day the crisis in North Korea will not. We operate under a mandate that does not allow us to remain silent about the human rights and refugee crisis that is a result of this emergency. We educate, protect, advocate, provide and empower the North Korean people so that one day they will have the opportunity to live in true freedom. Our roles are to:

EDUCATE: We share relevant stories of North Korean citizens and refugees through creative media, and we promote the truth about the humanitarian crisis inside and around North Korea to the world.

PROTECT: We protect North Koreans in pursuit of freedom, seeking asylum, and in need of assistance- wherever they can be reached.

ADVOCATE: We advocate on behalf of the North Korean people for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We call upon our leaders to do more because we know they can.

PROVIDE: Within the capacity of our resources and mandate, we offer assistance to North Koreans, NGO's, governments, and other partners working toward the same mission.

EMPOWER: We empower refugees with resources, assistance and guidance to reach freedom and to build new lives. We also empower citizens of the world to "take action" and make a difference in their individual lives.

Link's work falls into three core categories:

The Movement

We exist to tell the world about the untold stories of North Korea. Whether it's through a national tour, benefit concert, art show, photo campaign, or a campus wide movement, we will rally the masses through creative mediums to tell the forgotten stories of our North Korean friends. This is where I come into the picture- as a LiNK Nomad, I will be sharing information, raising funds and inspiring others to get involved.

learn more here...



The Underground

LiNK protects North Korean refugees in its network of shelters and helps them escape from hostile to free countries that will accept them as refugees or permit them transit to a third country. We do not accept any form of payment from refugees in exchange for protection or transit, and every step of the way is entirely funded by LiNK or private donors. Our underground operations are run solely by LiNK staff, and as a purely humanitarian endeavor, we maintain a policy of not working with brokers or human traffickers, or using fake documents.

learn more here...


The Transition The number of North Korean refugees arriving in third countries for resettlement has steadily increased, with a number of Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, or minors without families – many of them not only separated but also orphaned entirely. Refugees of all ages will be starting new lives, a difficult process LiNK helps to facilitate through its Liberty House US and Liberty House Korea programs.

learn more here...

I hope that has helped explain just a little about this amazing organisation! So now, I'm off. I'm off to work with an organisation that saves lives. An organisation that cares enough about its fellow human beings to make a difference. I hope you will join me on my journey as a LiNK Nomad.

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The What: About North Korea

What do you know about North Korea? For the average person, the answer boils down to one thing: 'nuclear weapons'. Whilst information and misinformation about North Korea's missile arsenal and military stronghold is readily communicated by the global media, another element of the horrifying truth regarding this country is both hidden and purposefully ignored: that of the mass-scale human rights abuses and the colossal humanitarian crisis.

The North Korean Army

Did you know, for example, that there are currently five active concentration camps in North Korea, and that on a daily basis, the estimated 400,000 prisoners who are held there experience and witness rape, slavery, unexplained 'disappearances', public murders, dismemberment, gas chamber execution, and horrific torture?

Or that the North Korean government practices infanticide within these camps, both by testing its nuclear weapons on infants and by performing forced abortions on women who become pregnant as a result of being raped by guards?

Or that over 2 million North Koreans have died of starvation over the past two decades due to a regime-controlled food distribution program?

Just one of the millions of North Koreans who are dying from starvation as a result of the government food distribution program

This in itself may seem shocking enough, however the situation becomes even more distressful once you understand the reasons that people are sent to these camps. In a haunting replica of Nazi practices during the Holocaust, the North Korean regime kidnaps, enslaves and tortures its own citizens if they are found to have disrespected the country, the government or its policies in any way.

North Korean defector Bang Mi-sun shows her torture scars at a press conference in Washington, D.C. (link to full story).

This, however, is not as simple as restricting people's right to protest or ask for food. A method of thought-control is also enforced; if a person is assumed or reported to have been thinking a thought that can be classified as not being in line with government propaganda, then they are sentenced to a lifetime of forced labor in one of the concentration camps. Further, it is not only the 'guilty' individual that is punished; three generations of the 'perpetrators' family are also imprisoned in order to meet the government's genocidal policy of keeping the North Korean bloodline pure and free of 'enemies'.

Can you imagine waking up tomorrow and knowing that not only you, but your parents, siblings, children and grandchildren, would be sent to a concentration camp if you made an unguarded remark about being hungry, or sang a line from a South Korean pop song, or accidentally looked displeased about a new government policy that further restricted your freedom and rights?


A North Korean woman, Lee Sun-hee, is forcefully dragged away from her daughter and from freedom whilst attempting to enter the South Korean embassy in China in order to avoid being tortured, imprisoned or executed (link to full story).

The situation in North Korea is obviously far more complex than I can even attempt to explain in a blog post. Over the next few months, as I work with LiNK (Liberty in North Korea, a non-profit organisation based int he USA) to raise awareness and funding to help people escape from the brutal world of North Korea, I will share with you as much information and as many stories as I can. It is my hope that you too will be inspired to change the future for the people of North Korea, whether through supporting my Nomad project, donating regularly to LiNK or spreading the word about the atrocities you now know of. Check out a list of how to get involved at the bottom of this post!

In the meantime, below is some more in-depth information regarding North Korea. There is further information available from Wikipedia, Google, the LiNK website, YouTube and other sources regarding North Korea, the Concentration Camps, the Human Rights abuses, and stories shared by North Korean defectors and survivors.


GENERAL INFORMATION

Official Name: Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)
Capital:
Pyongyang

Government:
Centralised Communist state. One-man, one-party Dictatorship of "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il and the Korean Workers' Party

Population:
22.7 million



THE HUMAN RIGHTS CRISIS

A Cult of Personality: Indoctrination programs to worship Kim Jong Il start in nursery school, every citizen has to wear a Kim pin on his/her lapel, there must be Kim portraits in every household, and there is no tolerance for criticizing or “subverting” the Kim regime in any way. The North Korean government operates 450,000 "Revolutionary Research Centers" for weekly indoctrination sessions, where attendees are taught that Kim Jong-il, who must be referred to as "Dear Leader," possesses supreme supernatural powers and had a miraculous birth atop a legendary Korean mountain (Jong-il was actually born in the former Soviet Union).

Two children pose in the only way they know how: subserviently

Lack of Fundamental Freedoms:
The North Korean government prohibits freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association. Not only wrong-doers, but "wrong-thinkers," are punished, the press is centrally controlled, and there is virtually no access to outside information. Freedom of religion, physical movement, and workers' rights are also severely restricted.
Human rights monitors are banned from the country, as are radio or internet communications between citizens and outsiders.

Loyalty Groups:
The North Korean government divides its citizens into three castes based on their perceived loyalty to the Dear Leader: "core" (haeksim kyechung), "wavering" (tongyo kyechung), and "hostile" (joktae kyechung). Most of the wealth is concentrated among the "core," while the "hostile"- a category that includes all members of minority faiths, as well as descendants of perceived 'enemies of the state'- are denied employment and subject to starvation.

'Hostile' citizens of North Korea are denied employment and starved

Enforcing Patriotism:
The North Korean government enforces loyalty and obedience through its Ministry of People's Security, which requires citizens (including family members) to spy on each other. Anyone who is overheard saying anything perceived as critical to the government is subject to a reduced loyalty group rating, torture, execution, or imprisonment in one of North Korea's brutal concentration camps.

North Koreans bow down to a Hitler-esque statue of Kim Il Sung

Controlling the Flow of Information:
All radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines, and church sermons are government-controlled and focus on praise of the Dear Leader. Anyone who makes contact with foreigners in any way, or listens to foreign radio stations (some of which are accessible in North Korea), is in danger of any of the penalties described above. Traveling outside of North Korea is also forbidden, and can carry a penalty of death.


A North Korean woman who escaped and made her way to Thailand is arrested

Food Crisis: Over one million people perished in the devastating famine in the mid-1990s due to natural disasters, the collapse of the PDS (Public Distribution System) and gross government neglect and mismanagement. In 2010, 33% of the population is undernourished, 23% of children under the age of five are underweight, and a near-total breakdown in the public health system has left an entire generation of children physically and mentally impaired. The World Food Programme has estimated that 6.2 million North Koreans are short of food. Malnourished Children: 37% stunted, 23% underweight, and 7% wasted (World Food Programme, 2004).

Political Concentration Camps: Currently, over 200,000 "violators" are overworked, tortured, raped or publicly executed in political prison camps across the country. There are five major prison camps in North Korea, verified by corroborating testimonies of North Korean defectors and satellite images. Up to 3 generations of each family are imprisoned, including children, because a relative had committed a crime such as expressing disloyalty to the government. Conditions in the camps are extremely harsh and systematic and widespread human rights abuses occur. Most prisoners are not expected to survive due to such extreme conditions, and approximately 25% die in the first year. Some reports have estimated that more than 400,000 prisoners may have already died in this system.

Crimes Against Humanity: Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines 11 categories of acts that constitute crimes against humanity: murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation/forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, rape/sexual slavery/enforced prostitution, persecution, and enforced disappearance of persons, apartheid, and other inhumane acts. With the exception of apartheid, every single one of these crimes against humanity is being committed on a systematic basis in North Korean political prisons.

Contracted Labor: North Korea maintains labor contracts with countries through government entities and foreign firms. North Korean laborers who work under such arrangements are denied freedom of movement and a large portion of their salaries are deposited into government accounts. There are an estimated 10,000 to 70,000 North Korean laborers worldwide and many are subjected to harsh conditions in jobs involving construction and logging.


REFUGEES

Estimates of up to 300,000 refugees have fled to neighboring China and are hiding in the underground. In violation of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, China repatriates all North Koreans who have illegally crossed the border; these refugees therefore risk torture and execution if captured. A fraction of North Korean refugees escape to third countries with the intention of seeking asylum.

Over 80% of North Korean refugees, the majority of whom are women and children, are victims of human trafficking in China. Within North Korea, children are routinely forced into child labor, and are subject to extremely abusive or dangerous situation; women, on the other hand, are trafficked for sex.



INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE

Severe Food Shortage: North Korea relies heavily on international food aid, especially as that it is experiencing a severe food shortage that may very likely reach the crisis level of the mid-1990s famine. Less than 23% of its land is arable, as farmers removed trees for food, resulting in deforestation, soil erosion, nutrient depletion, and increased susceptibility to flooding. Recent flooding and heavy rains have increased North Korea’s grain shortfall to 1.3 million tons, and the WFP has estimated that 6.2 million North Koreans are short of food.

South Korean Political Stance:
The South Korean Constitution recognizes all North Korean defectors as South Korean citizens. The South Korean government previously promoted a policy of rapprochement with the North, during the course of which human rights were severely neglected. Inter-Korean relations have sharply deteriorated under President Lee Myung-bak's administration. At the outset of his term, Lee advocated a policy of increased reciprocity and improvements of human rights. The North subsequently cut off official dialogue and demanded that Lee implement agreements reached in the 2000 and 2007 Summits. However, when Lee expressed a willingness to engage, tensions increased after a South Korean citizen was shot and killed at the North Korean Mount Geumgang resort on July 11, 2008.


North Korean Official Stance:
The North Korean government categorically denies any human rights violations within the DPRK and maintains that the “people-centered socialist system” champions the rights of its people. North Korean officials have claimed that “the customary allegations [of human rights violations] based on unsubstantiated information are a part of a parcel of the US policy of isolating and stifling the DPRK.”




GET INVOLVED AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
So, now that you know all about the crimes against humanity that are being perpetrated in North Korea, what can you do about it? It's easy- get involved! You can:


- Learn even more about North Korea and what's being done to change the situation at the LiNK website

- Come along to one of our fundraisers- either a craft class or a movie night- and help raise much-needed funds to support my LiNK Nomad Project (whilst also having a great time!)


















thatLiNKproject is hosting two fundraisers- a Craft Class and a Movie Night. Come along! (click on the pictures to enlarge)

- If you can't come along but still want to make a difference, donate! Even $5 can make a difference, and most of us have that to spare. I'm accepting donations of all sizes for my Nomad Project via PayPal- simply click on the link below! (EFTPOS, Bank Cards, Credit Cards and PayPal Account payments are accepted)


Donate to thatLiNKproject via PayPal

- Speaking of donations, LiNK are always looking for one-off and longer-term supporters to help more people escape from North Korea and start new lives elsewhere.

- Become a follower of thatLiNKproject to stay up-to-date with what's happening


- Spread the word! Let your friends and family know about how much the North Korean situation has shocked you, point them to the LiNK website, or grab them by the wrist and bring them along to one of the fundraisers!


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