For Immediate Release, October 10, 2007
Contact: Barbara Becker, EqualShot, 212-375-0661
Reverend Phillip Jun Buck, formerly of North Korea, Wins 2007 Civil Courage Prize for Help to Fleeing Refugees
Imprisoned in China for 15 Months for Aiding North Korean Defectors
New York, NY — The Reverend Phillip Jun Buck, an activist who has assisted North Korean refugees fleeing the country through an "underground railroad," will receive the 2007 Civil Courage Prize on October 16.
The Prize of $50,000 honors steadfast resistance to evil at great personal risk. It has been awarded annually since 2000 by The Train Foundation (formerly known as the Northcote Parkinson Fund).
Rev. Buck, 66, has guided over one hundred North Korean refugees out of China and ultimately to safety in South Korea. Additionally, he has sheltered and fed more than 1,000 refugees stranded in Eastern China while fleeing Kim Jong Il's regime.
Convicted of the crime of helping illegal immigrants, he recently spent 15 months in a Chinese prison where he suffered from malnutrition, intense interrogation and sleep deprivation. His case was followed closely by the U.S. Embassy, leading to deportation to the U.S. in August 2006.
Conditions in North Korea and Eastern China have been widely characterized as a humanitarian disaster. As many as 500,000 North Koreans facing hunger and starvation have crossed the border and gone into China. China, contrary to international law, tracks down and repatriates refugees. Since Pyong Yang deems it a crime to leave the country, the refugees returned by China are treated as criminals, and are subject to imprisonment, torture and possible death. China persecutes those who aid refugees, as well.
The Rev. Buck is barred from returning to China legally. He continues to aid North Korean refugees who do manage to reach Chinese territory through financial and other support. He has been affiliated in his efforts with Christian churches in South Korea, Europe and the U.S. that try to bring North Koreans out through China.
"There is a network of people still operating in the area, helping set up safe houses and run the underground railway," says Rev. Buck. "I will continue to help, by raising money from afar to house and feed the displaced in China."
The Rev. Buck was separated from his family during the Korean War. He lived in South Korea until he immigrated to the United States in 1983, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1989. As a pastor based in Seattle, Washington, for 24 years, he was sent by his denomination to work as a missionary in Russia in the early 1990's and then he expanded his ministry to China, where he pursued efforts to help the North Koreans fleeing the brutal regime of Kim Il-Sung, who died in 1994. At that time, Rev. Buck, whose real name was John Yoon, adopted the name of Phillip Buck to help prevent Chinese authorities from uncovering an expanding underground railway bringing North Koreans to China and South Korea.
Currently, several other activists are serving time in Chinese prisons. American Steven Kim, a furniture importer from Huntington, N.Y., was released from prison in late September after serving four years for assisting defectors from North Korea.
"Steve Kim and I were in the same prison," says Rev. Buck "I am so relieved for him and his family now that he has been returned to freedom safely."
The 2007 Civil Courage Prize Award Ceremony will be held at the Harold Pratt House, 58 E. 68th St. in New York City, on October 16 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. To attend the event as a member of the media, please contact Barbara Becker at 212-375-0661.
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