Underground Railroad


The Underground Railroad

The Activists

Profile headshot of Chun Ki-won, a Korean man, wearing a black scarf

Chun Ki-Won
This South Korean pastor has been called the “Asian [Oskar] Schindler,” after the famous World War II industrialist who saved hundreds of Jews from the Nazis, and “the Robin Hood of the North Korean refugees” for his role in leading more than 500 North Korean refugees across China into countries like Cambodia, Thailand and Mongolia.

In December 2001, Chinese authorities arrested Chun as he attempted to smuggle a group of refugees across the border into Mongolia. Their journey was captured on film and is featured in the documentary SEOUL TRAIN. Chun spent nearly eight months in a Chinese prison for his “crime” of helping North Korean refugees.

Chun is a former businessman who at one time sold golf clubs to Japanese in South Korea. He learned of the plight of North Korean refugees during a business trip to China near the North Korean border in 1999. It was then that Chun witnessed a North Korean woman being sold as a bride to a Chinese man as her husband watched helplessly. He also saw the body of a North Korean that had been shot in the back trying to cross the Tumen River.

A headshot of Moon Kook-han, his face hidden by a green surgeon’s cap and mask, only his eyes and eyebrows are visible

Moon Kook-han
An “Underground Railroad” activist who appears in SEOUL TRAIN wearing a mask to disguise his identity, Moon specializes in making political statements as he leads refugee groups out of China. In 2001, he rushed a family of seven into the UNHCR office in downtown Beijing. With the Han-mi family, he stormed the Japanese consulate gates in Shenyang, China. He was also behind the ill-fated MoFA Seven, a group of refugees who attempted to enter the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appeal for refugee status. The group was arrested at the ministry gates and likely sent back to North Korea, where they are presumed dead.

Headshot of Tim Peters, a white man in glasses who is talking but not looking at the camera

Headshot of Kim Sang-hun, an Asian man with grey hair wearing a white polo shirt under red v-neck
sweater holds up a sheet of paper with writing on it

Headshot of Dr. Norbert Vollertsen, a white man with shaggy blonde hair who is talking but not looking at the camera


Tim Peters
Underground Railroad activist and founder and director of Helping Hands Korea, this Michigan native has supported the activities of the Underground Railroad with funding, organization and guidance. Peters has lived in South Korea on and off for more than 28 years, dedicating himself to the service of North Koreans. He also founded the Ton-a-Month Club, which provides more than a ton of food per month to North Koreans in the remote northern reaches of the country.

Kim Sang-hun
A retired UN official who is one of the most covert members of the Underground Railroad, Kim specializes in facilitating the escape of “high value” North Korean defectors who provide evidence against the Kim Jong-il regime for a future International Criminal Court tribunal. Time magazine’s Asia edition named Kim one of the “Asian Heroes of 2003.”

Dr. Norbert Vollertsen
Vollertsen, a German doctor, has worked on numerous Underground Railroad operations. Prior to becoming an activist, Vollertsen provided medical relief within North Korea and actually earned the Friendship Medal of the North Korean people—the highest civilian honor—when he donated skin to a burn victim.

Get updates on activists and refugees featured in SEOUL TRAIN >>

View a map of the Underground Railroad routes >>

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