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October 19th

Can microfinance help save North Korean refugees?

I’m out of things to say. I think I’ve said everything that needs to be said about about this issue.

(this is a cross-post of my other site, which I will replace with a brand new initiative).

So unless someone wants to take over the blog, I’m shuttering it.

But that is not the end of the story.

For years, I’ve urged people to take action on one of the most pressing human rights issue in the world. Awareness is important, but it only really matters if it translates into action.

I’ve had this blog for over 3 years now, I’m one of the most aware persons. Why am I not doing anything?

So this morning on my way to work, I thought about what I can do. I don’t have a lot of money, nor do I have a lot of time. And I’m certain there many people in this country with the same situation. So what can I do make the most out of what I have?

I remembered an old post on microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus. And I also know the microfinance site, Kiva.

What if we find North Koreans hiding in China and finance their escape to safety, and recoup our loan long after they reach it?

Obviously, there are major risks involved. And it will no doubt be a tough sell. There is no guarantee that the North Koreans we fund will make it to safety, we can only maximize their chances of success. And the thought of poor North Koreans paying off rich westerns like me is unappealing.

But what are the alternatives? The current model of charity relies purely on faith that one’s contribution will make a difference. And with loans instead of gifts, we can maximize what meager resources in order to help others escape.

There are plenty questions that need to be asked. How much does it cost to get one North Korean out of the country? How can we finance children? When they do succeed, how do refugees, facing social isolation and meager employment, plan to pay off that loan?

They say freedom is priceless, but I plan to put one anyway and hope for both refugees and lenders, it is worth the price. I don’t consider it immoral, but others may disagree.

There is much research I have to do. I’ll have to find honest brokers. I’ll have to find ways to communicate with both refugees and lenders without comprising refugee’s safety. I’ll have to provide information to lender that their loans are worth it without giving too much information (like real names).

Hopefully, these questions will be answered and I will launch my new initiative and put my own money on the line to see if this is a sustainable model.

It’s my turn to act.

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