Upper Canada College’s Human Rights Advocacy Club helped put a face on their cause with a screening of the documentary Danny From North Korea in Laidlaw Hall on Nov. 20.
The 34-minute film was produced in conjunction with Liberty In North Korea (LINK), the only full-time grassroots organization in North America devoted to the North Korean human rights and humanitarian crises. LINK provides protection and aid to North Korean refugees hiding in China and, by utilizing a modern-day underground railroad through southeast Asia, rescues and helps them reach freedom.
The very moving and emotional Danny From North Korea was released in the spring and focuses on Danny Lee, who escaped from the film’s titular country in the middle of the night by crossing the frozen Tumen River into China as a 17-year-old in 2005 to find his mother — who took the same route five months earlier.
North Koreans fleeing to seek a better life can be shot if caught and, even if they make it out of the country into China, can still be sent back to face potential imprisonment, forced labour, beatings or execution by the oppressive dictatorship that firmly controls the nation and has plunged it into poverty and starvation. People have few rights and very little access to what’s happening in the world beyond their borders.
Through LINK’s help, Danny was able to get to the United States in 2007. He’s now a citizen with an interest in photography, and he hopes one day to shoot photos during a return to his homeland. His mother escaped to China but was arrested and imprisoned for six months by authorities and expected to be returned to North Korea. But good fortune shone upon her and she was allowed to go to South Korea.
Danny visited her in South Korea for a heartwarming reunion in December 2012 and looked across the border to its uneasy northern neighbour, where he tearfully recalls leaving his grandmother without telling her he was going to try and leave. He never saw her again and she’s since passed away.
IB2 student Husayn Kara, head of Human Rights Advocacy Group, said the free screening was a “great success” that attracted students from UCC and other schools, as well as faculty members and parents. Donations were collected and LINK merchandise was sold to support the organization’s mission.
You can watch Danny From North Korea here.