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Biking to fund North Korean bakeries

Two English teachers were set to complete an epic charity cycle through South Korea on Thursday.

Cristina Yim and James Foster have biked through floods and torrential rain to raise money for North Korean children.

The English teachers were set to finish their near 1,000 kilometer charity cycle in aid of Love North Korean Children at Busan’s Haeundae Beach. 
James Foster (right) and Cristina Yim (second from right) stop for a picture with friends during their charity bikeathon Wednesday.
James Foster (right) and Cristina Yim (second from right) stop for a picture with friends during their charity bikeathon Wednesday.

The U.K.-registered charity runs bakeries in North Korea, delivering flour and employing staff in the country’s Rajin-Seonbong area. It costs up to $8,000 a month to run each bakery, which can produce bread for up to 10,000 people.

Yim, who lives in Byeongjeom, and Foster, who teaches at a hagwon in Ilsan, decided to organize the charity bikeathon after meeting on a trip with Seoul Hiking Group.

Yim said: “We chose this charity because we are living in South Korea and it is a South Korean bikeathon. This is a fantastic cause that has always been important to me.

“We have raised a lot more than we expected. We both have some experience of working with charities in fundraising.”

But the journey initially planned to run from near the North Korean border to Busan took a challenging twist due to the torrential rain recently soaking Korea.

They had to compromise the original plan to set off from Paju, near the DMZ, when they heard flooding had seen many roads closed.

Less intrepid cyclists may have turned back when faced with rivers of mud in place of cycle tracks at their revised starting-point on the Han River at 6 a.m. Saturday.

But the pair, joined by some other friends for the challenge, carried their bikes for three hours through the knee-high sludge until they came to passable ground.

The next five days saw them endure adverse weather, steep ascents and broken bikes but they were determined to reach Busan by Thursday.

Yim said the trip has been worth it to raise money for North Korean kids as well as experience more of Korea by bike.

“I even almost cried a little,” she said. “We were in a downpour going uphill surrounded by beautiful landscape, it was amazing. Of course there have been moments where I have thought ‘this is terrible’, but really I am just so grateful that I am able to do something like this.”

By Kirsty Taylor  (
Korea Herald Youtube