When everything seemed to be going right, it all went terribly wrong. Reverend John Yoon had crossed the Mekong River into Thailand with 32 North Korean refugees after a long and complicated journey from Yanji in China's northeast. They were settling in at a tourist hotel in Chiang Saen and looking forward to reaching Bangkok, where they would be processed by embassy officials and soon be on their way to Seoul and a new life in South Korea.
Escape From North Korea: The Untold Story Of Asia’s Underground Railroad Melanie Kirkpatrick Encounter Books 2012, hardcover, 350pp 850 baht at Asia Books
But then the phone rang. Another 19 refugees Pastor Yoon was trying to help had been discovered in his Yanji apartment and detained by Chinese authorities. By the time the call ended he knew they would be forcibly repatriated to North Korea where they would face jail terms, or worse. His own fate would be sealed at a later date: after changing his name and returning to China, he was arrested with another group of refugees he was assisting and jailed for 15 months.
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