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"I Was a Broker" (7)
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2016-01-26 10:58:32
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"I Was a Broker" (7) 


RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000



   The only reason I had taught Kim Yun-Chan the safe routes to cross the border was because he was not only persistent but also sine there weren’t enough human rights organizations or missionary organizations to help all the refugees that wanted to make it to South Korea. I also figured that a broker that accepted fees from refugees was probably better than missionary organizations that accepted money from these impoverished refugees. Furthermore, I told Yun-Chan that 1,500,000 Won per person would comfortably provide for him and warned him not to accept anymore than that. He promised me that he would do so. I wanted refugees to make it safely to South Korea, through the cheapest means possible but I had been tricked. When preparing for a hard and dangerous mission, there needs to be a leader prepared to face it. Out of all the factors involved in this line of work, including economic factors, the most important thing is a loving and caring mentality for the North Koreans refugees. Due to one person’s accusation, all the plans and dreams that I had devoted the entirety of my life on had disappeared with a flash. Due to this one person that had reported us, several refugees has been dragged back to the concentration camp of death that is North Korea. The mere thought of going to North Korea shook me and I shuddered in fear and revulsion.  Here I was, stuck in a prison cell where the image of Eun-Sim, unable to sob out loud, cried silent tears lingered before me. The image of Young-Ok, crying out desperately to me  “Please, help us,” seemed to consume me. I promised to myself that would catch up to the overweight woman and avenge them in tenfold. I had faced risky times while helping North Korean refugees but I had managed to get them through the three-country escape route every single time.  There were a few moments that I would never forgot, including getting the refugee party, consisting of a woman and three children, to Mongolia. 


   On August 5th, 2006, I accompanied seven refugees to a shelter in Beijing. There were many refugees that asked for my help but I did not have the resources to provide for all of them. I asked for help from a pastor that also volunteered his services for North Korean refugees. The pastor told me that he would be able to safely protect the refugees and so my party at the time, and I, left for Beijing. After long two days of traveling, we arrived in Beijing a little past midnight and I left the refugees with the pastor, asking him to ensure their safety. I took a 3:30 am train back to Inner Mongolia and arrived at my destination late at night. I spent a night in Inner Mongolia and took a train bus to Jinig where I took a train to Yiryeon. I familiarized the routes that we would take the refugees, first hand. As I looked over all the routes we could take, I decided that we could easily get to Yiryeon if we took precautions. I finally took a train back to Beijing once my decision was made.


    Around 5 am, as I got into Beijing, an urgent call reached me. There had been an incident in the shelter during the previous afternoon. Two refugees were arrested by the police the refugees at the three shelters around Beijing slept on the streets, without proper clothes. They had nowhere to go and asked me to help them cross borders. I hadn’t slept properly in days and I was worn out to the bones. Yet, these refugees had nowhere to go, and the person that was taking care of them had gone into hiding after last afternoon’s incident. There was no choice left for me. I asked them to send the refugees to Beijing central station with 1000 Chinese Won since I had no money left on me. I said that money, combined with the emergency money I had, should be enough to send the defectors to Mongolia. I spent that day and night in the waiting room in Beijing station and looked for defectors on arriving trains from Weihai, but they were nowhere to be found. I had sent seven refugees to Weihai and I thought I could easily recognize them. Yet, even I as stood by the exit doors of trains coming from the South, the refugees did not show up. What had happened? Had something gone wrong since they did not have a guide with them? Such thoughts began to make me nervous. I couldn’t call Seoul, and the defectors didn’t have a phone with them so they couldn’t contact me either. There was no way of knowing what had happened. 


   Around 3:30 pm, I saw the refugees get off the train from Qingdao. They were one of the last passengers to leave. I was so pleased to see them that I ran toward them, and checked on everyone individually. I led them to a quiet place. The station was crowded with passengers, and there was no peace to be found but I gave them initials warnings here and fixed their clothing. Since the police had ambushed their shelter, they did not have time to put on their clothes properly or put on their shoes. They had slept by the beach and their faces and their clothes were all covered with dirt. I couldn’t believe that they made it to Beijing with such appearances. I thought to myself, “There is nothing we can do here, let’s head toward the West Beijing station.” I guided the refugees toward the bus station. I knew the bus timetable to Inner Mongolia from West Beijing station by heart. I knew that we had a bit of time so I made my companions wipe their faces with tissues and divided them into two groups. The first group snacked in the station cafeteria and the second group only entered when the first group had finished. We bought cheap clothes, bags, and a few children’s shoes to those who needed it in our party. Then, I picked a man in our party that were good at Chinese and I asked them to buy a ticket to Jining, Inner Mongolia at the ticket counter 14. I taught them the correct Chinese pronunciation of our destination. However, when I took him in front of the ticket counter 14, she kept asking for tickets in mixture of Korean and Chinese. The ticket sales clerk did not understand her and looked at him suspiciously. I quickly stepped in and asked for eight tickets to Jining in correct Chinese. The sales clerk gave me the tickets without hesitation, perhaps because there was a long line behind or maybe because I asked for the tickets with confidence. The refugee had great Chinese skills since the word was new to her, and because she was nervous and shaken, she had slipped for a moment. After this incident, when heading to a place foreign to refugees, I bought the tickets for them. Sometimes if someone had good Chinese skills, I made them repeat the Chinese pronunciation several times until I allowed them to buy tickets for themselves. 


   It was around August 10th and it was stifling in the train. There was no ventilation and the train was incredibly crowded. Our clothes quickly became soaked with our sweat and there was no way we could sleep on the floor. They hadn’t slept on their way to Beijing so all we could do was lean against each other and doze off. Four women, three children under 15, could I safely get them to Mongolia? I was plagued with worries and doubts but there was nothing for me to do. The only way for them to live was to move forward. The most important thing was for them to trust me. Five out of the seven came from the “House of Love” and they seemed at ease since we recognized one another. Yet, they still seemed to be in a state of mental shock from the police raid and from losing their two companions. I thought to myself, “I must reassure first and then I will tell them what routes they will have to take.” I arranged to have a person that could speak Chinese in each group and I gave them an hour and a half to walk around the city. We became at ease as we slowly explored the streets and the market and I installed confidence in them by telling them that they will successfully escape if they only follow my directions.


   There were still a few hours of daylight left. I took my companions to the southern market and rearranged them into different groups. I told them to meet a certain place and specific time and instructed them to enter the market and told the groups to walk in different directions that intersected with one another. When it became dark, I took my group to the meeting point where the other group was waiting for us. We circled around the corner of the market and prayed quickly. In the “House of Love,” Bible study was taught about one to two hours per day and many audiovisual resources were available for the refugees. They had continued Bible studies and praying in the shelter and they all believed in the Lord. I prayed to the Lord that I believed that he would guide them to the land of freedom and triumph. It bothered me that they hadn’t rested in days and that they hadn’t eaten properly as well. These refugees had nothing else to rely on other than the belief that the Lord would watch over their journey. They are all weak women. Also, on this journey, there were three children, including a child without parents. I prayed to the Lord in desperation. I stopped a small bus that would carry 7 people and put my group on the bus, letting the driver know the destination. I reminded them of the route I told them during the afternoon.  I wished them good luck and hoped that they would make it to their destination safely. I told them also to not say our good-byes out loud but in our hearts because we couldn’t afford to raise the slightest bit of suspicion. As the bus pulled up around the outskirts of the city, the stopped the bus and warned our party to make their way calmly and boldly. This group was all composed of females who recently obtained emotional scars. They weren’t instructed in proper topography or how to find directions. They didn’t have a compass or a cell phone and they had set out for Mongolia without preparation during their weakest state.  I returned to my lodging and prayed to the Lord for their safe escape.