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A Teenage Girl’s Flight from North Korea (2)
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2016-01-21 18:02:37
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A Teenage Girl’s Flight from North Korea (2)


OH Soon

North Korean Defector 
Date of Entrance to South Korea : March, 2005

I was born in Musan, North Hamgyeong Province, North Korea in August of 1984. As the famine worsened, my mother left North Korea in August 1997 to save the family (she had already divorced her husband due to domestic violence). A month later she returned home to take me and Chul, my younger brother with her and so in September we entered China together. At first we lived in Yanji, later moving to Wangching and Guangzhou. In the last, I earned 2,000 yuan a month working in a South Korean-run shop while my mother also earned money from her work. At the time, we were both making good money.

With our earnings, we hired a guide that would take us to South Korea. We went to Kunming on September 4, 2003. There were 13 North Koreans including my family gathered there hoping to go to the South. We had already stayed inside a hotel for a week, just waiting for the day we would have the chance to go to South Korea, when Chinese security police suddenly burst in and arrested us. My mother and IChul were fortunate enough not to be there at the time so they were safe. 

The eleven of us begged the Chinese security police on our knees to omit any mention of an attempt to go to South Korea from their report during the interrogations. They must have taken pity on us because they reported that we were caught while working or traveling.

After being interrogated throughout September, I was transferred via Dandong and handed over to the National Security Agency (NSA) in Shinuiju. On the way to North Korea, we all cried. In the hands of the NSA, we were strip searched and ordered to do “pumping,” sitting and standing a few dozen times with our hands on our heads in order to dislodge any hidden money. Our clothes were also carefully searched. This procedure was repeated every week. For two months, the NSA made us sit cross-legged from 6 in the morning to 11 at night doing nothing. If we moved even slightly, they would curse as they beat us. If we wanted to go to the bathroom, we had to raise our hand in order to get permission from a guard. The toilet was inside the cell and visible from the outside. If the guards thought we were doing something suspicious at the toilet, they immediately came in to beat us and find out what was going on. Since there was no toilet paper, we used a piece of ripped cloth or washed ourselves with water.

Two months later, on December 30, we were transferred to a detention center. During the interrogation, since I looked young with a slight frame due to undernourishment, I lied, saying I was only 16 so I would not have to work. The work at the detention center included building houses, logging and making bricks, being similar to that of the labor training camp. People worked from 6 in the morning to 6 at night and had ideology training in the evenings. While there was no work on Saturdays and Sundays, we were required to sit cross-legged in two columns like at the NSA and no work was assigned. Meals consisted of a small amount of corn gruel and a watery salt soup. Since we were caught and repatriated to North Korea during the summer, we had only our summer clothes, which left us freezing cold. Over 20 people slept in a small cell with only two blankets. It was unbelievably cold and difficult to bear.

In February 2004, after two months in the detention center, the Musan NSA came to pick me up. I went to Musan by train, but since I was a minor, I was sent home. However, as I had neither home nor family there, I was sent to 9.27 Kotjebi (street urchins) camp. There, people without homes or families were interned regardless of age. I escaped after one day and told a female guide that I would pay her 500 yuan for taking me across the border into China. Upon my arrival in China, I called my stepfather (my mother had remarried) and he came for me and paid the woman 500 yuan. He then took me to Guangzhou. Following my ordeal in North Korea after being repatriated, I swore to myself that I would never return to my homeland. However, without proper ID in China and my brother unable to study, we spent every day in constant fear. So again we decided to head for South Korea and in early October 2004, we went again to Kunming from Guangzhou by train and were joined by another North Korean woman. This was during the South Korean president’s state visit to Laos, so crossing the border was difficult. After waiting there for some time, we eventually arrived in Thailand on October 30 with the help of the NKHR.


* This testimony was taken in Thailand in March of 2005.