THiNK Organizes Benefit Dinner to Raise Awareness about North Korean Humanitarian Crisis

This year’s THiNK benefit dinner raised over $850 in donations thanks to publicity through tabling at Valentine Dining Hall and Keefe Campus Center and food offerings ranging from local Korean fare to local favorites such as Antonio’s and Paradise of India.

Haneui Bae ’13, THiNK chair, was extremely satisfied with the turnout. “I was thinking I would be extremely happy if we got around 100 people, but close to 150 people came to the event, and I’m sure many were shocked to hear about the issues.”

The benefit dinner was organized with the hope that the severity of the crisis facing North Korean refugees could be conveyed to Amherst students. Through videos and presentations, people who were not previously aware of the dangers facing North Korean refugees were introduced to some of the greatest crises above the demilitarized zone — the violation of human rights, the ongoing famine and the institution of concentration camps. Photographs of emaciated children lined the staircase in Keefe, illustrating the fact that the average North Korean boy is nearly eight inches shorter than his South Korean brother.

Efforts of THiNK are centered on raising money to assist North Korean refugees in China so that they can escape to Mongolia and South Korea. Any refugees in China face the constant danger of being caught by Chinese authorities and deported back across the river.

Daniel Hsu ’13, THiNK treasurer, was responsible for funding the dinner and coordinating the food purchases. “The refugee crisis is often ignored by the rest of the world, so it’s important that we do our own part here to educate and inform people at Amherst,” he said.

THiNK is an acronym for Towards Humanitarianism in North Korea. The club acts as a local Amherst chapter of the nationwide organization LiNK, which stands for Liberty in North Korea.

Wednesday’s benefit dinner specifically raised money to help in LiNK’s “TheHundred” campaign, which aims to rescue and resettle 100 North Korean refugees starting in 2010. Each rescue costs about $2,500, which covers the cost of food, shelter, transportation and paperwork. THiNK’s current goal is to raise enough to rescue one or two refugees.

At a small college, raising significant amounts of money can be difficult. But as Hsu said, the mission of THiNK is also fundamentally about “just putting the notion of the North Korean human rights crisis on people’s radars,” and heightened awareness can greatly augment the long-term effort to assist the North Korean refugees. THiNK will continue these efforts with an upcoming screening of the first-ever LiNK-produced documentary, “Hiding”, on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. in the Natural History Museum.

A dozen prospective members approached Bae after the benefit dinner to ask her about joining THiNK. Bae knows that this awareness in the Amherst community can be even more valuable than the money raised. “That’s exactly what we hope to achieve through these events.”