Charles Ryu escaped North Korea twice by the time he was 17.
Even before his first attempt to escape North Korea at age 14, Charles had been abandoned by his father, lost his mother to starvation, and was fighting to find enough food to eat. When his escape attempt landed Ryu in an internment camp, Charles became so emaciated by the 50 kernel of corn per meal diet that he almost died. After a brief stint working in a mine, watching as his colleagues were killed and maimed by the dangerous conditions, Ryu decided he must risk it all for the chance of a better life—a life with more food, a life with more freedom, a life that actually felt like life. Now he works with a California-based organization to help other North Korean refugees make their own journeys to freedom through a series of clandestine, underground networks. His story is incredible and captivating. Instead of allowing his past to write his future, Ryu uses his story to inspire hope in others.