Our Program on Tuesday, January 16, 2024 was on Family Camps for North Korean Refugees in the United States.  The presenters were Dr. Mike Lovette from the White Bear Rotary and Dr. Haesook Koo on Zoom from South Korea. Mike started by giving a brief review of the history of the Korean Peninsula from WWII through the present with the occupation in the North and US backing those in the south and the establishment of the DMZ dividing the country, its people and their heritage.  He described the perilous journeys of refugees escaping the north and their pathways through South East Asia and to the United States. 
North Korean Refugees reside in 20 U.S. states with concentrations in New Jersey, Chicago and California and countries all over the World.  What is difficult for them is that they are isolated from the home country and families and they cannot be in contact with them without putting their families there in danger. 
To give these refugees a sense of belongingness the Family Camp for North Korean Refugees was formed.  Dr. Haesook Koo who was educated at the U of M said that these people felt isolated, alone in the American culture and many distrusted us because from an early age they were told the U.S. was evil and the enemy.  The camps in 2021 at the YMCA camp on the St. Croix and Camp Ihduhapi in Minnesota in 2023 gave them healing and growth and reconciliation.  It provided a backdrop to connect with other refugees and gain understanding their common culture and our culture. It also gives them a sense of empowerment that they are not alone and hope for their common future.  The Rotary District Grant has been great and combined with the support of the YMCA has been life changing for participants.  Dr. Koo was on Zoom with Linda and me and we had a wonderful conversation before we were brought into the meeting.  She refers to Mike Lovette as “Uncle” which in their culture is a term of high esteem and respect. Dr. Koo is also instrumental in the running of the non-profit foundation called Friends of the North Korean Refugees.