Decades After Family’s Separation In Korea, Minn. Woman Focused On Refugees

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota woman whose father was killed by current North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un’s grandfather is asking for help in her effort to help North Korean refugees.

Hyon (Yahn) Kim is a former University of Minnesota regent who has family still trapped in North Korea. From her home in the Twin Cities suburbs, Hyon Kim runs a charity aimed at helping North Korean refugees escape the regime.

Hyon Kim says she has never been more scared not only for those her own family members and millions of others who live under the North Korean regime, but also for those in South Korea where anxiety is mounting over a nuclear threat.

In a comfortable, Twin Cities home, the 71-year-old grandmother cant stop watching the news from Korea.

“I don’t sleep at night lately,” she said.

Hyon Kim has lived the nightmare of her family being destroyed by the North Korean regime.

north korea hyon kim Decades After Familys Separation In Korea, Minn. Woman Focused On Refugees

Hyon (Yahn) Kim (credit: CBS)

“Kim Jong Un’s grandfather killed my father,” she said.

In the chaos of 1950s Cold War Korea, her family was separated. She was only 4 years old and was left behind in South Korea while the rest of her family made the fateful mistake of going to the north.

She made her way to Minnesota in the 1970s and was allowed back to see her family in North Korea once in 1990. It was then she learned of her father’s execution by the North Korean regime.

“In the middle of the night, they told me they killed my father,” Hyon Kim said.

In the years since, she learned that her mother and one of her brothers died of starvation in the North.

Her life in the U.S. led to a degree from the University of Minnesota, a successful business and being made a U of M Regent. She even met with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton – but the people of Korea are never far from her mind.

“I think it is a very dangerous time,” she said.

That’s why she formed the charity Freedom North Korean Refugees of Minnesota to try and help those who have escaped the north to either South Korea or China. She said,

“My focus is freedom for North Korean refugees,” she said.

Hyon Kim says her biggest concern is for an estimated 300,000 North Korean refugees living underground in China. She says if these refugees are discovered by Chinese authorities, they are often returned to North Korea to face certain death.

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