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"I Was a Broker" (17)
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2016-01-26 11:40:48
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"I Was a Broker" (17)

 

RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000

 

 

   After hearing about the conditions of refugees hiding out in China, I came to the conclusion that the situation was more critical than it was known in South Korea. I also realized that human rights organizations and missionary organizations have been providing false information. During my stay in China, Ok-Byul’s terrified and despondent face seemed to haunt me. Even educating the girl wouldn’t solve everything—there was a great chance that she would end up as a slave should she stay in China. I lived as a slave and there were still so many slaves that couldn’t complain or fight. They were taken by the police, beaten for requesting wages, and reported by their owner and were thrown out of China. That was the unavoidable fate that awaited Ok-Byul. I didn’t share my worries with one; rather I decided to get Ok-Byul and Chul-Ho to South Korea. I asked Sung-Min for help in early January, 2004, and told him that I would take care of all financial problems if he could only help these two kids. A few days later, I got a response saying that in a few days, they were going to help a few orphans get to South Korea. The person in charge of this operation was Min-Kyu from Baekdu-Halla Association, who I had previous experience working with. We had a specific plan and decided to carry it out. In a few days, a place to move the children will be prepared, and I had to choose someone who would be responsible for the children. It was my first time helping refugees escape and I was filled with doubt and worry about what would happen if something happened to the children on their journey. 

 

   One time, I was attending to some business near Mudanjiang when Mr. Dong asked me to get to Longjing as soon as possible. He said that his son was at risk of being taken by the Chinese  as an hostage and wanted me to take his son somewhere safe. I knew him well, and since it was his son at stake, I rushed to Longjing to meet up with him. We didn’t even have time to converse and I double-checked the house I was supposed to take his son to and headed near Gongnongchon. There was a man who was helping Mr. Dong and he hinted that he wanted more money for helping them. Soon, the taxi with Mr. Dong and his son appeared and as soon as we all got together to talk, I took Mr. Dong’s son and slipped away in a taxi. The next day, the man who would take the boy to Beijing came to our house. He claimed that he had the backing of the Chinese police, but he seemed like a fraud to me. It would be dangerous to hand refugees over to a man like him. A man like this claimed to be a well-known broker in Helong and Longjing. Mr. Dong always used to regret going to Beijing with this man. Apparently this man used to hide whenever the police appeared, and he refused to sleep in the same inn as the refugees. I couldn’t find a sliver of humanity in this man. I had gone through similar experiences but I had always stuck with the refugees. I had learned in South Korea and in China that the people involved were crucial in the success of a mission. 

 

   I managed to find a person that would take care of the Ok-Byul and Chul-min for a low fee and asked him to take the kids to Yangi on a late bus from Wangqing. The next afternoon I got an urgent phone call the next afternoon saying that I had to get the children out now. I asked him what was so urgent and I found out the owner of Chul-Ho’s house knows that if Chul-Ho leaves, then the contributions would cease. The owner decided that if Chul-Ho was to leave, then he would call the police on him. I told the caller that if the children were brought to Yangi today, I would take care of the kids. I prepared to meet them. When the kids arrive, I would calm them down and give them a change of clothes. Around the promised time, I went to the meeting point in Yangi and met up with the children and we headed toward a lodging. The children seemed a lot brighter than when I first saw them. The person that accompanied him told me that he had been worried all night since he had to hide Chul-Ho at an acquaintance’s house since the owner of Chul-Ho’s house threatened to call the police should Chul-Ho leave. That night, I talked to him for hours about the safest way to get the children to Beijing. He suggested that we disguise the children as my son and daughter and hang their student ids on their necks so that it wouldn’t seem suspicious. We decided to get a train seat with beds to Beijing, The problem is the young girl in Longjing. The woman had been in China for over six years yet she didn’t know a word of Chinese and lived deep in the mountains in Kowloon with her husband. It was hard asking for the husband’s help. After thinking hard, I decided to meet the husband. I told him that I would take his wife to Beijing in seat with beds and that I would pay for the tickets. I told him to pay for the return ticket. He was very thankful. I asked them to meet me on time at the station and asked them to keep in touch by phone. We finally got on a train to Beijing from Yangi and after checking on our seats, In Sol-Ja and I sat across form another with the man who had accompanied the children sitting next to the children. It seemed as though a whole family was on a journey. In the beds behind us, we placed the young couple and told them to feel out the situation, and sleep on the top bunk together, warning them not to wake up in any case. After my warning, they quickly got on the top bunk and pretended to sleep in each other’s arms. Their sudden action seemed suspicious. I warned them before I got on the bus to read Chinese magazines in their own beds and only get in one bed when the train departed. Yet they went against my advice and just quickly laid on the bed. This was the husband’s first time on a train, and he was very naïve. The Bible says that experience helps those that help themselves. Even if they wanted to go to South Korea, if they were not mentally prepared, then they would not only miss the open doors in front of them but also cause harm to the rest of the companions. 

 

   There are many people who want a 100% safety guarantee on their escape to South Korea. However, such route is not possible in China. The safest way is to take a route with the least risks, learn how to face unexpected situations, listen to the instructions of the leader, and face each situation with bravery and cautiousness. Even in the same routes, there are some who bowed their heads at the mere sight of a police officer. This can lead to greater problems. Yet, Ok-Byul and Chul-Ho laughed and ran around the train in sheer joy. This was a thousand times better than shivering in fear. After a few ours, my party could enjoy the journey in a peaceful state. The children were sleeping in In Sol-Ja’s arms. At their ages, they should be receiving their parent’s love and enjoying their young and bright future without knowing what fear was. I hope a bright and happy future awaits you two.