Sarah G. Kim is a Brandeis University Senior majoring in Sociology and minoring in International and Global Studies. As part of ‘Deis Impact! 2013, she is organizing a screening of the award-winning documentary, Seoul Train (2004), about the lives and deaths of North Koreans as they try to escape their homeland. The film will be followed by a discussion with Dr. Sung-Yoon Lee from Tufts University .
Gulag Nation: North Korea and Crimes Against Humanity
Thursday, February 7th, 12 – 2 pm
What inspired you to organize this event?
This event is part of the second annual social justice festival called ‘Deis Impact! 2013 Exploring Social Justice on Campus, in Waltham and Around the World. Early on, when I first found out about all these insane human rights violations in North Korea, they stuck with me partly because of my own cultural and ethnic ties to where my parents were from. Also, I don’t understand how people can just continue going about their lives when they are exposed to this kind of information. So since high school, I started to bring awareness to people around me and that’s what I was hoping to do with this event as well because not many people know about the atrocities happening in North Korea and I figured that the best way to easily present these issues was through a film. With just words, I think for a lot of students here, it tends to go in through one ear and come out the other because there is so much information on our campus. So with this documentary film I hope to show them that this stuff is actually happening no matter how bad or unrealistic it seems. For instance, there are gas chambers in North Korea and public executions that not a lot of people know about. I also invited a guest speaker, Dr. Sung-Yoon Lee who is Assistant Professor of Korean Studies at Tufts University. I met him over the summer when I was looking to see if there were any Korean studies programs in the area. I realized that he also speaks a lot on broadcast news such as BBC, CNN and NPR so I thought if we had someone like him come to our school, all the information and knowledge he could share would help inspire us and also see what we can actually do to help these people.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the film?
It is a documentary about North Korean citizens who are trying to either flee from North Korea or from China. A lot of them tend to escape to either Russia or China because the 38th parallel is very heavily guarded and it is almost impossible to escape by entering South Korea. It is a bunch of activists, many of them are either North Korean or Chinese citizens who act as double agents and they set up this route of safe houses for them to escape into. I thought this film was interesting also because it asks the Chinese government that is part of international law why they violate those laws by systematically arresting these people and sending them back to North Korea. It sheds light on why the Chinese government doesn’t view these people as refugees, which is a very important issue. It also questions why the United Nations hasn’t done anything to save these people. It shows live footage of these people planning their escape routes and it talks about what they were subject to when they were forced to live in prison camps.
Why is this event important and relevant for IGS students?
I think this film is of interest to IGS students because they are studying a world that is becoming more and more globalized but a country like North Korea is still isolated despite all its neighboring countries that have been growing tremendously in the past few years. It is interesting to see how North Korea comes into play in affecting global trends especially if it were to be re-united with South Korea, or at least if the dictatorship ended what would it mean for countries like the US, South Korea, China or Japan. I think it is important to see all this in an international perspective. So stop by anytime during the event. I hope IGS students will have the heart to come and learn something new. Learn that North Korea is not just a country with nuclear missiles but there are people there that are suffering a tremendous amount.
For more information about the event, you can contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.