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"I Was a Broker" (22)
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2016-01-26 11:51:34
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"I Was a Broker" (22)


RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000



I imagined different routes, with the inner Mongolia map in front of me, yet I couldn’t find a solution. If we entered through the north after taking the central train line, public transportation needed to be well established, which wasn’t the case in the area. I decided that to send a person to a village that could help us get to Mongolian with a little financial leeway, and to stay there for a month to examine the situation. Two months later, Mr. Wang told me that his brother had a friend in Psynaiyastai who smuggled in pigs and sheep from Mongolian to China through a large truck. It was too cold now for smuggling animals since their angles would freeze from the cold.  I thought that I could use the truck or at least ask the smugglers to help us figure out situations at the border. I decided to do a reconnaissance of the border area in February 2005. I showed the men leaving for the area how to get to our target location on map. I instructed them to consider how they would travel with the refugees. I told them to meet with the smugglers and bargain for 5000 won per person if they agreed to transport people by truck. If they failed to come to an agreement, they should seek out routes to Mongolia but warned them not to cross the border into Mongolia by mistake. Even after I sent them, I desperately wished for their safe return. However, they failed again. They said their transportation fees were expensive already and demanded over 50,000 per person. If I had access to large donations, it wouldn’t be a problem. As it was, monetary donations were nonexistent for me. Sometimes I would receive 100,000 to 300,000 won from friends, though it was more often that I did not. I had looked for a place to work but I had nowhere to ask for money, nor did I have the talent. They told me the smugglers didn’t share their paths and that they had wandered around the border area but were unable to find a road, small village, border guard station, and returned in vain. I had prepared them for a long time, with great expectations, but everything had gone to waste. It didn't matter if they had succeeded or failed, they were Chinese and I wondered if they could sacrifice themselves in a dire situation.


Time passed quickly into spring 2005. I was upset at the thought that I had wasted precious time in China. There are still refugees in shelters waiting for the chance to get to South Korea. If I had the ability, I would meet with several people and organizations to help the refugees get to Korea for free or for an affordable rate. Yet such was not possible. Sometimes, a place I wouldn’t even have considered offered to help refugees but would mean that the refugees would have to study the Bible for a year before leaving, during which, anxiety might burn their heart to ashes. Wouldn’t they assume that I had planned it all along with missionaries and thus find me reprehensible? The truth was that I wanted refugees to get to South Korea as soon as possible and I believed certain entry fees were owed to the brokers. The problem was that I didn’t have cash to handover the refugees to the brokers, and I was hoping that a missionary or an organization would be willing to help them for a lower cost. However, contrary to my desires, many missionaries believed that refugees only hindered their work and avoided them. Even if there were missionary organizations willing to help them, they looked upon defectors with a religious purpose. They almost forced them to convert people in North Korea, and instructed that without  intense faith, going to South Korea would be near impossible. I didn’t like it. I wanted to live comfortably and I wanted the refugees to enjoy that freedom. Bible studies would be better if they accepted the teachings comfortably with conversion left to the will of God. What the refugees desired was to get to South Korea as soon as possible. There were several shelters and it was difficult to pick a single team of people.


The escape route must be opened as soon as possible. I could no longer postpone our departure.  It would be best if we set up a base near the border, such as Ahulsan and Psynaiyastai so that we could move quickly and save transportation costs. However, everything had failed. I had to make sure my last effort succeeded. Then I could no longer use Chinese people, I had no choice but to go myself. I headed toward Mongolia through Yiryeon, and I still had opportunities to go near the Mongolian border area two more times legally. In 2001 and 2003, I had entered the border area with the promise that I would put a stop to the tears and the blood of the refugees. I carefully memorized the geography, the location of the military base, the location of the train station, and other things I would need to remember such as direction and streets. Furthermore I had the phone number and the signature of the chief of the military base camp so I only needed a little more effort. I decided to find a person able to translate Mongolian. I asked my acquaintances to introduce me to a translator and even looked on the internet. There wasn’t much information available on the internet that I could use. I found a missionary organization named Diaspora Mongolia Dream, and wrote down its telephone number and a map. From what I remember, it was near Seocho-gu Sandang-Dong. I went to the organization and told them what I wanted to do and asked them to get me in touch with Mongolian Border Guards. They told me in response that what I wanted to do differed from what their purpose and that they didn’t want my work to negatively affect their missionary work. They refused my request. A few days later, Ryu Pyung-Lim, an elder from the church from Munjeong-dong, told me that he found translator and asked me to accompany him to meet this person. The translator was Mongolian, studying faith in a church for foreigners near Siheung-si. Ryu Pyung-Lim held a lot of love and concern for the refugees and sought to make my work a little easier.