Beyond Utopia: A Stark Look into the Human Rights Crisis in North Korea

Kenji Sawai
June 4, 2024

April 21, Washington D.C.—Alliance for Korea United (AKU) held a film screening featuring ‘Beyond Utopia’ and a discussion session with Dr. SueMi Terry and Pastor Sungeun Kim at the Korean Community Center Banquet Hall. About 130 Korean Americans watched the documentary of the North Korean escapees’ cruel reality while shedding tears.

Three individuals are seated on white chairs in front of a presentation screen and a South Korean flag in a community center, ready to discuss the human rights crisis in North Korea as part of the Beyond Utopia initiative.

(From left) Pastor Sungeun Kim, Dr. SueMi Terry, and Ms. Yusook Kim at the screening of the film Beyond Utopia

President of AKU in Washington, Yusook Kim, introduced the documentary saying, “This is a documentary that clearly shows the human rights situation in North Korea by vividly depicting the hardships and dangers experienced during the process of defecting from North Korea, which was believed to be heaven on earth.” She emphasized that a free and unified Korea is a moral obligation to rescue North Korean compatriots from the abyss of poverty and misery as soon as possible.

Dr. SueMi Terry, Senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of Beyond Utopis, explained, “As a Korean American, I hope I will help my country, which made me who I am today. I have been working in the U.S. government and Think Tanks for a long time. To protect Kim Jongun’s power, he continues nuclear provocations, and the citizens are not guaranteed even their minimum human rights. They’re imprisoned in a huge prison. When I was thinking about how I could provide more practical help to our compatriots, I met my fate in the documentary Beyond Utopia.” After the screening, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D, VA) presented certificates of appreciation for human rights in North Korea to Dr. Sumi Terry and Pastor Kim Seong.

In a robust Q&A session with the audience, Pastor Sungeun Kim said, “I am helping North Korean defectors with belief rather than faith.” He explained the first rescue: his wife—a North Korean escapee. Tragically, he lost his sickly 7-year-old son during one of his rescue missions. The pastor and his wife pledged to dedicate their lives until the end to rescue North Koreans’ lives. Pastor Kim would still go on to rescue 1,018 North Koreans.

Dr. SueMi Terry explained the cruel reality of North Korea. She has presented statistics to the U.S. government and given testimonies before, but it was through the documentary that she felt she could finally touch peoples’ hearts.

Pastor Kim emphasized that people outside North Korea must continue to send information about the free world to the oppressed people of North Korea. He stated that helping them become aware of reality will become the greatest power to rescue North Korean defectors.

AKU Washington is an organization that aims to advance the establishment of a free and unified Korea by forming a consensus among the Korean American community.

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