“CincyLiNK is the Cincinnati LiNK Rescue Team. LiNK stands for Liberty in North Korea. CincyLiNK was founded in 2015 in memory of Kyungmook ‘Chris’ Park (1989-2014). LiNK has no religious or political affiliations. It is a non-profit organization that works to rescue North Korean refugees in China and transport them to safety and help them resettle in South Korea or the US.” Founder of the Cincinnati Chapter of LiNK, Kierstin Griffin, describes the organization, adding that since 2010, about 370 refugees have been rescued and resettled.
It costs about $3000 to fund a rescue, or about $1 per mile. On their website, Libertyinnorthkorea.org, it explains a little about the process: “Refugees are cared for and protected during the 3,000-mile rescue journey. When refugees reach freedom, they are able to take advantage of LiNK’s Resettlement Assistance and Empowerment Programs, which offer tutoring, personal and career development, scholarships, and even study abroad opportunities, to help them thrive in freedom and reach their full potential.”
What challenges do you face as an organization?
Griffin explains, “One thing I’ve noticed when trying to promote and fund raise for CincyLiNK is that there is a general unawareness amongst Cincinnatians regarding the issue. I’ve had many people admit to me that they did not previously know anything about North Korea other than ‘It is a bad place.’ And that people are generally very supportive once educated about the North Korean peoples’ situation. However, the existing stigma about North Koreans has been much more difficult to surmount; when the just the words “North Korea” evoke so much fear and distrust.”
This stigma is based a lot on assumptions, but CincyLiNK has no religious or political affiliation and has no involvement with North Korea. Refugees are rescued from hiding in places like China, where they risk being returned to North Korea or exploited or trafficked if discovered. These rescues are also done at no cost to the refugee.
Why is this issue so important to our community?
There is a Korean American community in the Cincinnati area. Additionally, the Cincinnati community is very caring and globally minded. CincyLiNK is partnering with local Cincinnati businesses, for example, the Korean-American owned ‘Sung Korean Bistro’ for fundraising events. It is important to inspire discussion and raise awareness about the situation in North Korea. CincyLiNK’s goal is to help the refugees get to freedom. People fear that rescuing refugees would increase conflict and lead to war with North Korea, but we rescue refugees already out of North Korea. These refugees are at high risk for exploitation and slave labor if found by gangs and risk their lives if deported back to North Korea. They have no allies after their escape but are looking for freedom. That’s where LiNK comes in.
For more information about CincyLiNK, see the organization’s website: CincyLiNK.org or to get involved contact Kierstin Griffin at:
Written by: Kelsay Culvaruso, GCWAC Social Media Intern