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"I Was a Broker" (23)
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2016-01-26 11:53:11
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 "I Was a Broker" (23)


RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000



We were able to meet the Lamcha couple that were staying in South Korea to study faith. Physically, Lamcha looked like a Korean woman, and spoke and typed Korean fluently. We quickly exchanged our greetings and I explained to her what I planned to do. I asked her to help me with calling the military base commander. She assented easily. Lamcha and I exchanged email addresses and phone numbers and I thanked her again for her future help before returning to Seoul with my companion. All I had to do now was to figure out who would help me with official document requesting cooperation. This document must be distributed by a trustworthy organization. However, I did not have the resources to introduce myself to such organizations. One day I was praying at the Southern Seoul Grace Church Unified Mission and asked elders and pastors to introduce me to an organization that could help me. They asked me to talk to Kim Young-Ja Secretary General from Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights. Out of the many missionary organizations and citizen’s groups, Citizen’s Alliance for NKHR seemed to be the best and I decided to visit since they could be of help. I had heard a lot about this organizations, I had seen Kim Young-Ja Secretary General ’s face several times but I have never had a conversation with her. I met Kim Young-Ja Secretary General and told her that I would appreciate her help. She seemed to consider it for a minute and asked me how much money I received to bring the defectors to South Korea. I told her that I was looking for about 1,000,000 won given the situation. I knew that once the refugees got to Mongolia, they would succeed, but sometimes the defectors were sent back to China. I told her that I was looking for a diplomatic route to prevent refugees from being sent to China and that I needed official cooperative documents to accomplish that goal. Kim Young-Ja replied that she would help unconditionally. I met the person that would help take care of my affairs and talked about information that we would need such as the fact that refugees will cross the border at Yiryeon and that in our future correspondences, I might omit this destination for security purposes. I had taken care of everything in South Korea, yet I haven’t figured out how to get to Yiryeon, or how to cross the border.


There were several ways to get to Yiryeon. I took the most practical route and examined the bus and train times and figured out where and how the inspection took place. This was a central area far from border area, so very little inspection took place. If they got to Tongliao station, then it was easy to get to Yiryeon if we took a safer route even though it was more tiring. I arrived in Yiryeon in the afternoon and browsed the city. I thought that when I went to Mongolia a few years ago, I had gone behind the station. If I walked that way for a while, there was a lake without steel fences. If we crossed to Mongolia, people who were not familiar with the area would get lost and wander in the vast desert. The China-Mongolia border is not a straight line but an oval, and the father the one headed east, the more northern the border was, hence making it impossible to find a village or a military base. Another route connected an alleyway and train tracks about 200 meters north of the train station. I decided this route wasn’t suitable since the lighting near the train station provided no cover of darkness. My belief was that the silhouette of my party needed to be swallowed by darkness as fast as possible and that the border should be approached form the outskirts of town. The desert near the city was brightly lit and could be dangerous for us. During the day, I did a bit of tourism and went to the "People’s Republic of China Gwomeon" to see the number of soldiers in the border area. I though about how tight the security would be if these soldiers were divided up into groups. However, I was imagining how the soldiers distributed themselves without even knowing how they actually patrolled the area. When I crossed through here years ago, no one stood guard. There were no soldiers, no alarms, and we easily ducked under the fences. There had been approaching headlights when we crossed, which now I think might have been a patrol car. From the testimony of refugees afterwards, many refugees were more likely caught by patrols rather than soldiers at their posts. Even if they had sent the soldiers undercover, it would be impossible to cover the entire length of the border. The border was marked by 16 km long fence with the Gwomeon at the center, and I knew that if we added the left and the right side, the fences would add up to over 30 km. My fear that escape would be impossible dissipated as I walked back and forth. I think the border had a negative psychological effect on me. Other than a few meters, the night would provide ample cover on my route, and if we headed a little west, the city lights wouldn’t reach us. There were some headlights that appeared now and then near the border. What were they for? If they were military patrols, then this would be a set patrol time. In the midst of my emotional turmoil, I was heading toward the border.


It seemed like yesterday that I was inspecting escape routes, yet it had been a few months. For my sake and for the sake of the refugees, I had to remind myself to be especially perspicacious as I inspected Shenyang Tongliao area. I couldn’t abandon everything and just look for paths—I had to look for refugees and help them get in touch with other means of getting to South Korea. My lack of spare time made it difficult for me to inspect my escape paths once a month. However, things were looking up. I wasn’t expecting much but there were people who offered to help me who gave me hope. When was it…I was at the Catacomb Prayer meeting when Mr. Tim asked to speak with me.  He spoke broken Korean as he announced that he wanted to help me.  I had seen him participate at meetings dealing with problems facing refugees and I had known his face from a news article about his support for North Korea by providing corn. Once, we were headed to Cheorown Workers’ Party building to send a radio balloon to North Korean in August 2003, when about 40 police officers accosted us and confiscated our radio. I was helping Norbert Polochan who was being repeated trampled on by the police when one of the officers caught my arm and dragged me to the back. My twisted arm hurt but I was also overcome with deep distress at the brutality of South Korea. One of my companions, San-Mae, told me that there was a place in Seoul that prayed for refugees and asked me to accompany her. We went to the Catacomb meeting a few days later where I met Tim Peterson. There were many foreigners and Korean university students at the prayer meeting that took place every Tuesday evening. The meeting was informal and was often based around the refugee situation in China. I didn’t understand a word of English so the people next to me translated for me, allowing me to participate. I was always thankful at the sight of us finding the Lord and sharing stories in such a comfortable atmosphere, putting our heads together for the refugees in China. I was especially grateful to see those of different race, color, culture and language  invest so much attention and care for refugees in prayer.


I attended the Catacombs meeting whenever time permitted me to do so, resuming when I returned from China. They were great people who sympathized with the refugees. They were true people of Christ who worked tirelessly to spread the truth about refugee situation to South Koreans through Insadong campaigns. Members of prayer meeting always held me in warm regard and prayed for me, asking the Lord to watch over me and my endeavors in China. I truly felt their deep love for me when I was in Christ Love Church. I had been told that members of the congregation had been praying zealously for me, a person whose face they didn’t even know. I think Mr. Peterson probably introduced me to the church and prayed for my spiritual growth. Tim said that I was working too hard and that he wanted to help. I was so thankful for his offer since it was a time of extreme hardship for me. I had met many people in South Korea and China who offered to help but their actions never echoed their words. Yet Tim was an honest Christian activist who held deep love and concern for the refugees.