Liberty in… North Korea?

Earlier this year, I spent four months working for a pro-liberty cause. But it wasn’t just another internship or desk job: I traveled thousands of miles, crossed an international border four times, met thousands of people, and delivered nearly one hundred presentations. The organization I worked for is Liberty in North Korea, and I served as a Nomad.

Liberty in North Korea, or LiNK for short, is a nonprofit organization based out of the Los Angeles, CA metropolitan area that rescues North Korean refugees hiding in China and resettles them in South Korea and occasionally the United States. This protects the refugees from persecution in China, including females being forced into sex trafficking and authorities forcibly deporting the refugees back to North Korea, where they can face severe persecution for illegally leaving the country. Since LiNK began rescuing refugees in 2010, it has rescued 265 refugees.

For four months, I worked around-the-clock to raise both awareness of the issue and funds for refugee rescues. We began with an intensive five-week training session where we learned about North Korea and the refugee situation in addition to rehearsing our presentation and booking events. We endured countless late nights of practicing our presentations after making dozens of calls to book events earlier in the day. On the weekends, we bonded through various activities and occasionally had free time to enjoy the Los Angeles area.

Our hard work paid off, as we booked over three hundred events across the United States and Canada. We delivered a multimedia presentation about the situation in North Korea and the work we do to rescue refugees in China. We also raised funds through donations and merchandise sales.

The presentations were delivered by five teams of three Nomads each. Each team had a van and a route to which they were assigned. I had the opportunity of traveling the Pacific Northwest route, going across the Northwest United States and Southwest Canada. We traveled through Montana and Minnesota in the thick of winter, drove long stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway, and went down the West Coast from Canada to California. We slept at the houses of generous hosts who had booked events with us, and we had the privilege to get to know each one of them at a personal level while also presenting at the venue they booked us for. We presented at 7 AM at high schools, late nights at colleges, Sundays at churches, and just about every date, time, and place in between.

These four months of hard work paid dividends not only for the organization and for the refugees we helped rescue, but also for each one of us as individuals. Along the way, I met a host in Minnesota who was a college student and once traveled hundreds of miles on bicycle, finding impromptu places to sleep at night and adapting to unexpected occurrences as he went along, in many ways similar to our own experience as Nomads. One of my teammates asked him what he learned along the journey. He recalled how he learned that he wasn’t always in control of the situations and challenges that came about along the way, and that he had to respond accordingly – even if it meant letting poor or otherwise less-than-optimal scenarios play out rather than try to prevent them directly. This is something I also learned while on tour, and it is something I continually endeavor to apply in my own life as challenges arise.

I believe this lesson can also apply to many libertarians. We hold an ideology that is outside the traditional left/right dichotomy, and, even with the Ron Paul campaigns in 2008 and 2012, it is still regularly mocked by the mainstream media and other pundits. While it’s easy to get frustrated at the treatment of libertarians and pro-liberty beliefs, it is important to not grow cynical and stay focused on sharing ideas and creating results in a way that will inspire and make people listen. Just as we had to deliver our presentations with enthusiasm to inspire others to donate and get involved while Nomads, the need for a positive approach and unrelenting persistence applies to achieving liberty in North Korea, the United States, and everywhere else in the world.

LiNK prepares new tours twice a year coinciding with school semesters, and the Fall 2014 tour will be on the road shortly. This semester’s campaign is Jangmadang, referring to the Korean word for “market” that is used to describe the black markets that have flourished throughout the country following a famine in the late 1990s. In addition to having access to food and other basic necessities that the regime cannot provide ample supplies of, the markets also provide North Koreans with electronic media that exposes them to the outside world and allows them to understand what liberty is all about.

As an earlier SFL blog post notes, North Koreans are becoming more aware of the outside world and are seeing the benefits of free markets.

If you want to learn more about how LiNK is working to promote liberty in North Korea and rescue North Korean refugees from China, book an event at your high school, college, church, or other venue. Several SFL and other libertarian groups have booked events at their colleges and other venues, and SFL even has a partnership with LiNK. By utilizing connections in SFL, I booked an event with an SFL chapter at a community college while on tour and had a great discussion with other libertarians.

By booking an event, you’ll be able to introduce your friends to a topic on liberty they may not know much about, and you’ll have an opportunity to grow your own chapter or other pro-liberty group by having the opportunity to host a major event. A team of passionate Nomads will probably be in your area in the next several weeks, so don’t wait to book an event with LiNK!

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