In 2021, COVID-19 continued to impact rescue routes. There were unprecedented border lockdowns, surveillance, and restrictions on movement as China implemented a Zero-COVID Policy, imposing strict restrictions on domestic and international travel. QR codes, proof of vaccination, and health certification were required to travel. As a result, it has been almost impossible for North Koreans to travel through China and Southeast Asia to reach safe resettlement in other countries.

For North Korean women who were already in China prior to the pandemic, some of them for years, showing proof of identification or getting vaccinated is difficult due to their illegal status. Many are isolated and unable to escape, and for women who were sold into forced marriages, we’ve heard of some facing even worse treatment from their Chinese husbands than before.
On the resettlement side, the process has also been difficult this year as some support programs were closed or scaled back due to COVID-19. Many refugees felt especially lonely during this time of isolation or had difficulty finding jobs. While circumstances have made our work more challenging, we remain actively engaged on this issue and committed to expanding our impact in any way we can.

2021 Annual Report

letter from linK'S ceo
In 2021, as the pandemic continued, North Korea’s borders remained shut and we began hearing worrying reports about conditions inside the country.

The North Korean government’s extreme response to the pandemic impacted the people in significant ways – from increased restrictions on internal movement to ongoing shutdowns of the border. The country became even more isolated from the outside world and the economy was devastated. North Korean people faced shortages of basic necessities, and we heard multiple reports of death from starvation. Because of the extreme border lockdowns and the unprecedented levels of restrictions, it became nearly impossible for North Koreans to not only escape their country, but also to travel through China. And North Korean women in China, who had been there for years after being trafficked and sold into forced marriages, were even more trapped than before with no way to escape. Some faced worse treatment from their Chinese husbands during the lockdowns.
Liberty in North Korea. Freedom for every man, woman, and child.
2021 highlights



*not through our usual rescue routes


million raised


North Korean refugees supported


people reached with the stories of North Korean people


radio broadcasts into North Korea featuring or mentioning LiNK

Refugee Rescues

North Korean refugees have not given up and neither have we. We continue to monitor the situation of North Korean refugees who need assistance and are working closely with our partners on the ground to conduct reconnaissance missions to find new, viable routes and methods to help North Korean refugees in their escape. Because of these challenges, we are even more grateful to have been able to help one young man safely escape and resettle in the United States.



*not through our usual rescue routes


supported during processing
in Southeast Asia
"I was one of 25 million people in North Korea. Blinded, deafened, stuck – I thought that was my fate. Never did I imagine that there are kind, warm, and passionate people out there who are standing up for the invisible 25 million. All I can say is thank you to each and every one of you."
Minhyuk, resettled in 2021


Despite the circumstances, our North Korean friends were incredibly resilient. They continued to work towards their goals and achieved many major milestones this year.

Our team is adapting to their needs and finding ways to provide support, encouragement, and a sense of community throughout the resettlement process.




care packages delivered


home visits


emergency financial
assistance grants
"Thank you for coming to visit me and for your encouragement. I thank all of you who have helped me safely come to South Korea in this difficult time of the pandemic. I got to reunite with my little sister here after years of separation."
Jung Eum, resettled in 2021




care packages delivered




home visits


emergency financial
assistance grants
3 university graduations
2 marriages
3 babies born
4 people starting university
2 new US citizens
2 new businesses started
1 home purchased
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certified
"I think this is a huge step for us to be a trauma-informed organization. Not only do North Korean refugees face potential mental health challenges, but also our own colleagues working on this issue. Knowing how to recognize early signs of mental health challenges and intervene will be invaluable moving forward."
Kris Song, US Resettlement Assistance Manager


staffer became a
certified MHFA instructor


staffers became certified
Mental Health First Aiders

Agents of

One of our biggest opportunities moving forward is to go beyond resettlement support and to invest in the capacity of North Korean defectors as agents of change.

When North Korean refugees successfully resettle in freedom, they become some of the most effective agents of change on this issue. Many maintain contact with their home communities, sending money and outside information back to their families, accelerating change within North Korea. North Korean refugees also have the unique opportunity to share their stories, insights, and perspectives on the global stage, educating audiences, advocating for the issue, and mobilizing international support.


empowered through
our programs
LiNK English
Language Program
In South Korea, English language ability is critical for both educational and career opportunities. There is also an undeniable value in more North Korean defectors being able to share their stories, voices and perspectives in English with people around the world. In response to this need, last year we developed and launched a new English Language Program in South Korea that spanned over 2 semesters (Summer + Fall).


North Korean students


hours of studying
English together
Professional Mentorship Program
On the US side, we piloted a mentorship program that would support individuals in their personal and professional development. We connected them to relevant networks and communities to better support their success in their academic and career aspirations.


North Korean mentees
and their mentors
"I'm currently pursuing a degree in counseling and hope to work with people with trauma. My mentor shared her clinical research experience with me and with their guidance, I successfully earned an A in my research class. I can't thank my mentor and this program enough.”
Sohyun, resettled in 2012,
pursuing a graduate degree in mental health

Accelerating Change in
North Korea

Through marketization and access to foreign media, the North Korean people have been creating and driving change inside the country over the last 20 years. The people’s increasing autonomy and proliferation of information from the outside world poses a powerful threat to the North Korean government's propaganda, ideology and control.

The North Korean government is very sensitive and responsive to these changes.
During the pandemic, the regime has increased the severity of crackdowns and punishment for consuming and sharing foreign media, including credible reports of executions. This shows not just where the regime’s priorities lie, but also that they recognize that these phenomena and social changes driven by North Korean people are a threat to their control in the long term.

We have an incredible opportunity to not only understand these people-driven changes, but also to find ways to accelerate them.
Labs is our space to collaborate, develop, incubate and innovate new initiatives to accelerate change in North Korea.

We co-hosted 3 virtual, closed-door summits that brought together North Korean defectors with practitioners and researchers from North America, Europe, and Asia. Together, we discussed emerging trends on this issue, showcased new technologies and research, identified areas for collaboration, and increased the community’s learning from North Korean defectors.

We continue to work on key projects around creating and curating content for North Korean audiences and new technologies to increase access to foreign media and information inside the country.
*Please note that to maintain operational security we're limited in what we can share publicly about Labs


virtual summits

Changing the
Narrative on
North Korea

North Korea is more than dictators and nuclear weapons. When North Korean refugees share their voices, they challenge the regime’s portrayal of an unchanging and monolithic country, instead highlighting the humanity and dynamism of North Korean people. Changing the narrative to focus on the people, not missiles, is crucial to accelerating progress on this issue and mobilizing the global community.
new videos


Youtube views
WATCHING: Our latest short film
North Korean Beauty Series
The Fresh Prince of Pyongyang Series
Dongjin’s Story
Remittances: Sending Money North
virtual events


virtual events


live participants


total views
advocacy campaign


letters sent
No one should be punished for wanting to be free. Last year, many of you joined us in a letter writing campaign to our elected officials, pushing members of Congress and the US government to make the North Korean people a bigger concern in its policy on North Korea. This advocacy will continue along with our efforts to ensure that the North Korean people receive the attention they deserve.
rescue teams
Vassar College – Benefit Concert
UCLA – “The Roots of North Korea” Speaker Event
Reagan Wright – Content Creation
USC – Squid Game Dalgona Fundraiser
UCLA – Mental Health Event


LiNK Chapters


Rescue Teams are LiNK chapters at schools and in communities around the world. They help us raise funds and change the narrative on North Korea at a grassroots level. In 2021, despite limited opportunities for in-person events and gatherings, LiNK chapters were busy finding creative ways to reinvigorate the movement! See some of the incredible work they accomplished:
LiNK x partnerships
Working with people and brands that align with LiNK’s mission and values is an exciting way to share the stories of the North Korean people with new audiences. This year, we were grateful for these partnerships:
Selena + Chef
After each episode of Selena + Chef, the show makes a donation to the guest chef’s charity of choice. Chef & restauratrice Esther Choi @choibites chose Liberty in North Korea, talking about our rescue work while whipping up a K-BBQ feast with Selena!
Flame Broiler
Flame Broiler created a limited edition version of their Simply Magic Saucewith packaging that featured LiNK’s work and a way for people to get involved. For every bottle sold in one of their 180 restaurants, they made a donation to support Liberty in North Korea.
While South Korea shares heritage and a border with North Korea and has huge potential to contribute to progress, there’s a distinct lack of interest among the general public, especially among young people. LiNK’s South Korea Engagement Team seeks to activate this demographic as a powerful force for change. We work with our North Korean friends to humanize the narrative on North Korea in South Korea and raise a new generation of activists for this issue.
RFA Collaboration:
비바 청춘 다이어리


In South Korea, interest in North Korea-related content is growing, but many videos focus on sensationalizing the differences between the North and the South and reinforce the stereotype of North Koreans as “the other.” This series sought to change people’s perspective on North Korean refugees, highlighting their everyday lives in South Korea, overcoming challenges and pursuing their goals just like anyone else.
“I have been working as a creator for years. Most of the fans from my own channel are older Koreans (50s-60s) who are interested in North Korea as a political issue. I thought that younger people my age didn’t care, but through this project I realized how many of them do. It was really touching and now I can be more confident living in South Korea.”
Eun-jeong Oh, resettled in 2009
Co-creators &
Action Jangmadang


people reached


events hosted by co-creators
Co-creators is a new program that aims to cultivate North and South Korean college students as activists on this issue. LiNK’s South Korea team led a two-day training with a group of 21 university students. The students were divided into teams and ran their own “Action Booths” during Action Jangmadang, a 9-day advocacy event.
“This program will stay with me long after I graduate university. Being able to talk with a diverse group of people about an important issue like North Korea was so meaningful. In the future, I want to use every opportunity to grab the mic and use my voice to make a positive impact.”
Sein Lee, South Korean participant
International Women’s
Day Event with Miso


reached online


in-person attendees
Hosted by Miso, a North Korean refugee and former LiNK Advocacy Fellow who now works as a beauty consultant, this event sought to engage South Korean millennial women. Over 70% of North Korean defectors are women, and they face particular challenges in their journey to freedom and resettlement. Attendees made custom lipstick while hearing Miso’s personal experience, addressing common misconceptions and changing perspectives on the issue.


resources received
resources spent
resources spent
for programs









Contributions & Special Events
Net Other Miscellaneous Revenue
Grants (excluding PPP Loan forgiveness)







Supporting Services
Rescue & Resettlement Support











Empowering Agents of Change
Changing the Narrative
Rescue & Resettlement Support
Empowering Agents
of Change
Changing the Narrative

Board of Directors

Jensen Ko
Managing Partner, AriseN Partners
Chairman of the Board

Gloria Lee
Lawyer & Philanthropist

Hannah Song
CEO, Liberty in North Korea

Henry Bedford
Chairman of Southwestern Company

John Park
Entrepreneur & Philanthropist

Justin Wheeler
Co-founder & CEO, Funraise

Paul Kruger
Partner & Global Chair of the Structured Finance Practice, Seyfarth Shaw LLP

Peter Lee
Partner and West Coast Commercial Practice Leader, Weaver

Scott Sugino
Corporate Partner,
O’Melveny & Myers LLP

Wonnie Park
Brand Strategist

Yunah Lee
CFO & COO, Goat Group