Korean Americans from the Chicago region rallied Friday morning to "strongly denounce and condemn" North Korea's nuclear testing.
Members of the National Unification Advisory Council - Chicago Chapter (NUAC-Chicago) organized the demonstration in front of Chicago's iconic Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue.
They toted signs that read "Stop all nuclear arms development and missile testing immediately," "Restore human rights and freedom to North Korean citizens immediately" and "UN and international community must install tougher sanctions against North Korean government."
About 50 NUAC-Chicago members spoke out against North Korea's fifth and most powerful nuclear test, which was conducted on September 9.
"Two weeks ago, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test, and it was the most powerful yet. Ten kilotons of nuclear arms," explained NUAC-Chicago's senior advisor Soojae Lee. "Our purpose today is to request our Congress and President Obama to follow through on the economic sanctions against North Korea and also have our government talk to the Chinese government, because North Korea is getting all their money through Chinese businesses and banks and companies that are supporting them."
"We're asking that our government follow through so that any kind of funding that North Korea is getting for these testings is stopped immediately," he said.
NUAC-Chicago describes itself as a "voluntary organization comprised of Korean-Americans in Chicagoland and neighboring 13 states" aimed at educating the "community on the need for peaceful unification of two Koreas, North and South."
The group's members expressed support for U.S. Rep. Ed Royce's (R-CA,39) call for swift and aggressive enforcement of sanctions against North Korea. Royce is chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
"We support him wholeheartedly," Lee said, referring to Royce's statement from September 9 denouncing North Korea's nuclear test. "We want to make sure that other members of the House and the Senate, along with our president, follow through and stop this nuclear proliferation that North Korea is trying to accomplish."
Also at the rally was Yesoe Yoon, outreach director at Emancipate North Koreans (ENoK), a Chicago-based non-profit organization working "to help North Korean refugees in America transition to the new society and life through ... life-skills training, job training, and education" programs, according to its website.
The organization assists about a dozen North Korean refugees at any given time.
"They told me that their lives in North Korea (were) so miserable," Yoon said of the North Korean refugees she's worked with. "They did not have freedom. And they're praying for their families too. A lot of them, once they escaped from the country, their family got killed or put in the camp."
Yoon said it is a "life-threatening battle" for North Koreans to flee the country.
"There are vulnerable people in North Korea who need help," Yoon explained. "Because of (Kim Jong Un's) regime, we can't do anything about it. We have to take actions. I'm hoping to see [the] U.S. and other countries, especially the UN, take actions together" to help humanitarian aid organizations get into North Korea to assist its people.
"They are vulnerable," she said of North Korea's citizens. "They did not do anything wrong. They have no choice to do anything besides following their regime, because it's their system."