Mr. Lee was driven out of North Korea by the widespread famine and was fortunate to find asylum in the UK.
He now lives in council housing in New Malden, where a community of escaped North Korean people has grown up over time. He was one of the first people to settle there, back in the mid-2000s, and he relied entirely on a few connections made through the church he attended regularly to find housing, work, and to translate his bills and letters, because he only speaks a little English.
Prior to Connect: North Korea establishing services in his community in 2018, Mr Lee had no choice but to rely on the informal support he was able to get through people he knew at his church, but it wasn’t necessarily that dependable, the information and advice he was given wasn’t always accurate, and he wasn’t always able to get help as quickly as he needed it. This led to him being in a far worse position than necessary.
Mr Lee discovered Connect: North Korea through one of our outreach team, and he has been a frequent visitor to our offices since then, needing help with a range of issues from his internet bills to his benefit payments. A number of these issues had been outstanding for a long time, with a risk of escalation either legally and/or financially.
One of the issues Mr Lee asked for our help with was understanding a situation that had arisen with his housing benefit. He didn’t understand that he was being threatened eviction from his home because the date his housing benefit was paid had changed, which meant he had charge of £17.19 from his landlord for late payment of his rent. He had been receiving letters about the issue for months but could not understand what they said or what he needed to do. Our support workers were able to speak with the council to explain what had happened, and make sure Mr Lee was able to pay the £17.19 and stay in his flat.
With help from Connect: North Korea, Mr. Lee is now on top of his bills and letters and understands the importance of keeping correspondence, account numbers and passwords secure and safe. We are also in contact with his assigned council worker, and we have offered translation services when they are needed. Mr Lee told us:
“For years, I have been living in a state of uncertainty. Thanks to the team at Connect: North Korea, I now feel like I understand what has been coming through my letterbox. That feeling of security is invaluable.”
A donation from you today will help Connect: North Korea support another escaped North Korean person to develop their resilience and skills that enable them to make a better live for themselves.