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"I Was a Broker" (5)
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2016-01-26 10:45:48
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"I Was a Broker" (5)


Ryu Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000



Unable to sleep, I kept thinking over the plan in my head. Was it the end of July or early August that thepeople are going to escape for the North? The refugees that I would be helping would leave North Korea around the end of July or early August. They wanted to participate in the upcoming election before their departure. If they were to escape before the election, the security of their family members and friends will be jeopardized. They promised that they would get into China within 3-4 days after the election and asked for my help in getting to South Korea. In order for me to fully prepare for my work, I urged them that they had to be in China by August 4th. I planned for 7 refugees, including Eun-Sim and Yeon-Gil and set my departure date to YeonGil on August 7th. However, plans changed in North Korea and they were unable to get to China by the promised date. I told them to get to China by the end of September and to stay in a shelter near Yanbian. I asked them to come by September since there were a few North Korean defectors that I had already promised to help in September. Therefore, I decided to help them escape the third country first and then help the others make their escape in October.


While at the shelter, Eun-Sim and Gal-Lyang learned the Bible from their deacons and asked the deacons to protect them. I decided to pick Young-Ok up right before the departure since she was with her Chinese husband. My plans were not operated as I intended thus changed the plan to leave on the 9th instead of the 7th. I gathered them to a shelter but did not inform them with the changes to keep our itinerary confidential. In order to send my notifications and announcements, I had made an email account and created a code so that even if I were hacked, our departure date, time, and direction wouldn’t be revealed. I emailed that our departure time was 11 am and withdrew some money from the bank. We left that evening without hassle. 


Everything seemed to be going according to plan until the bus to Imdong broke down a little past Tungryo. The driver went to the back of the bus to look at the engine, and tightened a screw with a spanner. From the looks of it, I didn’t think we would make it to the train on time. I told Eun-Sim to get us a cab going to Gaeruyigo and tell him that the fee would be 150 won. I also went out onto the street to get a cab but since we were on the suburbs of Inner Mongolia, taxis were few in number around here. When we asked an empty cab to take us to Gaeruyigo, they refused us. The normal taxi fee from where we were to Gaeruyigo is 120-130 won; making our offer of 150 won a generous one. I was anxious to think that we might not make it to our train on time but the bus was fixed finally. I think we must have waited more than 40 minutes for the bus to be fixed. The bus took no heed of our impatience and crawled slowly on the unpaved road. I kept checking my watch compulsively, silently begging the car to drive faster so that we might still be able to make our train.


The bus finally made it to Gaeruyigo. I thought we were too late to take the train and checked for the next available train and went to get new train tickets. I asked Young-Ok and Gal-Lyang to wait near the bus station. Eun-Sim and I took the three-wheelers to the train station. She had previous experience living in Qingdaoso her Chinese was passable, not to mention her bright disposition made her a great companion. As we neared the station, the train that we were supposed to be on was already departing. We slowly entered the station and bought new tickets for the next train. We took the same route back where we met up with Gal-Lyang and Young Ok, who were waiting for us nervously. Eun-Sim and I made a pair and the other two made another and we waited for the next train by looking around the near plaza and the stores. We bought bottled water and some snacks and headed toward the station in a three-wheeler. When we entered the waiting room in the station, it was more peaceful and quiet compared to previous times. There was no one to check our hand luggage at the entrance and there were no police officers patrolling the waiting room. Our party remained near the ticket barrier, and I warned Young-Ok to hold onto his hand luggage securely. A young teenage-aged boy, sitting near Young-Ok snapped his head to look directly at me. I returned the stare. He was a handsome boy, about 18 years of age, and didn’t appear to be Han Chinese. Today, the relatively empty station gave me an exposed feeling. Soon, as we left the ticket barrier and headed toward the platforms, the outfit of a few passengers caught our eyes. It was the teenage boy that we had seen earlier at the waiting room with a large woman and the walking in front of her. The woman was wearing pants that stopped above her knees. Even at first sight, I could tell that she was not a local. Also, a short and frail looking woman with a small black backpack walked a little behind them. The backpack was similar to what students at Yanbian used as school bags. 


This station was familiar to me so we headed toward where the train would stop. However, the boy and the woman looked at our direction with the woman with the backpack looking at us as well. Eun-Sim and Young-Ok said to me that they were also North Korean defectors. Even in my opinion, they appeared as refugees. Most Chinese people do not like to concern themselves with other people’s business. However, their outfits drew notice to begin with, and their shifty looks in our direction could draw unwanted attention to us. The teenage boy probably told the large woman that we spoke Korean, and in their eyes, our behavior must have seemed suspicious. We got on the train and found a place to sit when I locked eyes with the large woman. She smirked at us and made her companions back up and sit a little ways away from us. I suddenly remembered that I had met her briefly in Yiryeonhaohteo in 2006, Christmas day. 


We settled by the window and I warned my party to be cautious in their words and in their actions. Then I walked across the train to the large woman. Her party was sitting two sits away from us by the window, and everyone seemed anxious. As I approached them, the young man’s eyes widened and the shorter woman gave me a twitchy look before snapping her face toward the window as if she didn’t see me. The large woman tipped her head at me slightly and smiled as if she already knew me. I settled in the seat next to her and asked her where she was going and what methods of transportation she planned to switch to afterwards. The woman replied that as soon as the train pulled in, she would get on a direct bus to Yiryeon. I told her that entering by bus might cause complications and told her to switch buses in between. She boasted that she had a letter from Yanbian Head of Chinese Public Security said that she was allowed to take these people across the border and reassured her companions. Furthermore, she claimed that Yiryeonhaohteo’s head of border patrol was her friend thus they are exempt from punishment even if they were caught. I hated how she made up such implausible lies just to reassure her companions. I pitied the defectors who placed their trust in such a woman like that. I told the woman to be careful and said my good-byes before returning to the rest of my party. This woman knew nothing about Yiryeon. She was probably half-hearted following someone else’s orders and that she wanted save as much money as she could during the operation. I had heard good things about the woman, but I had no idea that she was such a liar so full of herself. 


I wanted to buy breakfast, and asked the woman and her companions if they wanted to eat. They replied that they weren’t having breakfast. I went to the food car in the middle of the train and asked for breakfast just for my party. I didn’t like how anxious I felt after meeting that fat woman. When the train arrived at Jining, the woman took her party to the bus stop and I took my companions to the computer center that I had often used before. The computer center was rather well furnished for the Inner Mongolia area, and there were not many customers there. I registered for two computers, putting two people per computer. We intended to stay here until 10 am, and then get on the bus with bread, snacks, bananas and drinks as our lunch. We would have to watch every word from now. The best was not to say anything at all. When getting on the bus, I could buy the tickets since I could speak like a local. I stressed to my party that we must take extra caution from now on and that we must help each other, just how we have on our journey this far. Without sleeping a wink, we made it to Yiryeonhaohteo. I thought that our journey had been smooth and that no mistakes had been made until I learned that someone had reported us. The only person that knew us was the large woman, and she was the only one that knew which train we were trying to get on.