In the documentary Seoul Train, filmmakers Jim Butterworth, and Lisa Sleeth expose the life-and-death struggle faced by North Koreans who attempt to flee their homeland through China, a country that does not recognize their legal status as refugees.
In China, a few fortunate North Korean refugees discover Asia’s own Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses and hidden routes set up to lead refugees to freedom in South Korea. Seoul Train features courageous individuals from all over the world who put their own lives at risk to operate this “railroad.”
There are an estimated 250,000 North Korean refugees living in China. Having escaped starvation and torture at the hands of the North Korean regime, refugees living in China must continue to fight for survival. The Chinese government systematically raids homes, train stations and even taxis looking for North Koreans who they categorize as illegal immigrants. Chinese citizens are rewarded for turning in North Koreans living silently among them.
North Korean agents also cross into China looking to capture and repatriate North Koreans for the “crime” of leaving their country. Defecting from North Korea is a capital offense, and repatriated refugees face human rights abuses ranging from concentration camps and torture to forced abortion and summary executions.
Using actual footage taken by activists, Seoul Train goes behind the doors of the covert safe houses where different groups of refugees plan their escapes.
- Lisa SleethProducer/Director
- Jim ButterworthProducer/Director
- Aaron LubarskyDirector