They are refugees from perhaps the most isolated nation on Earth: North Korea. And for the last few days, these 27 kids and adults have been touring New York City, savoring something they once lacked: freedom. Josh Robin filed the following report.
The children list their favorite things about their trip.
"Yesterday, we went to Six Flags," said one.
A trip to a cave, says another.
"I really like America," one child said through an interpreter. "If people want to stay home, they can. If they want to go outside, they are free to go outside."
Freedom, after childhoods utterly lacking it.
Under penalty of death, they, or their mothers, escaped from the poverty and repression of North Korea, only to find brutality again across the Chinese border.
Mothers and children were abused. Some children are from unwanted marriages.
A reverend brought them to South Korea. He hopes a brief time in another vibrant democracy leaves lifelong lessons.
"It's a big help and challenge for them to come to America because they had only known the narrow perspective of North Korea," Rev. Ki-won Chun of the Durihana Association said through an interpreter.
The totalitarian nuclear-armed state recently fired a missile capable of reaching Alaska. All U.S. military options carry major risks.
But the external threat often overshadows North Korea's treatment of its own people.
Families of escapees can be killed, so we are keeping their identities hidden.
"The military has a lot of power," said one North Korean refugee. "If they demand food from us but we don't have anything to offer them, they stone us or use weapons on us."
One brother and sister were reunited after more than a year apart.
"I left North Korea because there is no freedom there," said one North Korean refugee.
"Freedom is being able to do what you want to do, being able to go where you want to go and being able to say what you want to say," said another.
A freedom leading Assemblyman Ron Kim to lament what's become of the open door tradition in this country.
"To go in a whole different new direction, I think that would be devastating," Kim said.
The reverend says he's saved more than 1,100 people, leading to his imprisonment in China.
He says it started when he saw the corpse of a would-be defector in a river bordering China.
"I have been witnessing women being sold into slavery since 1995, dying while crossing the border, children who are being abused and beaten by adults. I still see this happening," Chun said through an interpreter.
This is the seventh group that the reverend has taken. He says he will be back with his eighth next summer.