Korean Refugee Hopeful About Singapore Summit

June 13, 2018 4:35 pm Last Updated: June 13, 2018 4:35 pm

Dr. Joseph Han, a 22-year-old North Korean refuge, was faced with two choices: Stay in North Korea and die of starvation, or flee and face a penalty of being executed. He took that risk in 1999.

Just like other North Korean refugees, Joseph wants to see changes in his homeland and says the Singapore Summit is a very important first step.

“Very desperate, many people died [of] starvation, my family almost also died. Also, I almost died. I worked as a teacher at a high school, but I didn’t get paid,” said Dr. Han.

He decided to sell his possessions to avoid being caught with anything that would lead back to his family. He then took a two-day journey to China by train.

“Some people were in charge of the train, but if I pay some money then they allow me to get on the train. It’s scary, but I [was] hidden. … I am not sure, but I might survive in China,” said Dr. Han.

He spent almost 10 years in different countries in Asia. In 2009, he got an opportunity to come to America on a student visa to earn his doctorate in theoretical nuclear physics at Texas A&M.  He came with his wife and child. He now has a Ph.D. and three children.

Dr. Han wished more was discussed at the summit, like human rights, but says he respects President Trump and is sure more meetings will follow. He hopes that he can someday help scientists in North Korea.

“Many scientists in North Korea, they are involved in some project related to weapons, so actually I want to give them an opportunity to use their knowledge for improving our human civilization,” said Dr. Han.

Dr. Han said he would love to eventually go back to North Korea if there is a change, and he would go back to being an educator like he was before.