While the world wonders about how or if North Korea will change with its new leader, Kim Jong Un, we can only make speculations of hope or remain disinterested. Locally, groups of junior high and high school students are acting upon ideas to aid and spread awareness about the issues surrounding the mysterious and impoverished country.
Early this year, students from four Irvine churches (Onnuri, Irvine Baptist, Sarang, and Bethel), have begun to work together to help build wells in the Kaesong and Hwanghae regions of North Korea. Students created an event called NK-24, a subgroup of the organization, CFK (Christian Friends of Korea).
By hosting events, having bake sales, and soliciting donations, students from these four churches are trying to raise $25,000 each. After all these efforts, on March 24th, the students will be staying at their respective churches to participate in a 24 hours famine in order to raise awareness. In addition, the event will allow privileged students to experience what many hungry North Koreans feels every single day without food to eat or water to drink. “I am actually really excited for this,” said Elisa Kim, a sophomore at Irvine Baptist Church. “Even though I’m not eating for 24 hours, it is nothing compared to my brothers and sisters who die from hunger every day. I feel like there should be more events like this around the world. It can be a life-changing experience.” While it can be a difficult challenge, many students can grow from this event.
While supportive of the cause, some students have doubts that building wells may not be a realistic plan considering the circumstances. “It seems difficult to get a sense of what can be done in that country,” said a sophomore at Arnold O. Beckman High School. “My friend asked me to donate to NK-24, but how can I be sure that this is going to be a worthy effort? I’ve heard terrible stories about the government intercepting foreign aid. I don’t want to waste my money helping that kind of regime.”
While some doubt, others make a personal effort in learning of the situation. “I don’t know what I can personally do to help or have some kind of impact, but I think the 24-hour famine will be effective in making young people appreciate what they have. Plus, I’m sure the money we raise will go to good use,” said another 24-hour famine participant.
Each student participating must raise $200 to contribute to the goal. “$200 sounds like a lot of money, but I don’t think it is that hard to raise it. So many of us spend more than that on one day of clothes shopping,” said a high school senior at Irvine Baptist Church. “If my little money can help feed or clothe people in North Korea, then I definitely don’t mind not spending it on new jeans or shoes.”
While one student’s sacrifices may seem like a small gesture, the collective effort of these Orange County students will ultimately amount to $100,000, which is not a paltry sum. In addition, the personal commitment to such an experience as a 24-hour famine is certainly admirable.