Seoul Train

Thousands of North Korean refugees risk their lives trying to escape their homeland and China via an underground railroad.

Seoul train 01
Series
Independent Lens, Global Voices
Premiere Date
December 13, 2005
Length
60 minutes
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2004 Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival-Best Documentary
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    2005 Libertas Dubrovnik Film Festival-Best Documentary
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    2005 Libertas Dubrovnik Film Festival-Audience Award, Best Film
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    2005 Crested Butte Reel Fest-Audience Award, Best Film
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2005 Crested Butte Reel Fest-Silver Prize for Best Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2005 Boulder International Film Festival-Best Documentary
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    2005 Milan International Film Festival-Best Editing
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    2005 Texas Film Festival-Audience Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2005 Los Angeles Artivist Film Festival-Best Human Rights Documentary
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    2005 Jackson Hole Film Festival-Best Global Insight Film
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2005 Brooklyn International Film Festival-Independent Spirit Award
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2005 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival-Runner up, Best Documentary Short
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    2006 duPont Awards-Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award
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    2007 Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award-Jack R. Howard Award Finalist
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    The Film

    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.

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