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"I Was a Broker" (25)
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2016-01-26 11:55:43
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 "I Was a Broker" (25)


RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000



The repetitive and anxious days slowly passed by until it was end of October. The officer was calling for me again. It was late evening thus most of them would have gone home but a smart looking prosecutor of average height had begun investigation after me again. The word was inspection, but all the prosecutor did was read me my previous statements and asked me to stamp my thumbprint on the information. It was nothing more than protocol. They hadn’t indict me yet so I don’t know why they were double checking on my crimes again. The prosecutor left hurriedly as if there was another engagement. I quickly asked when my trial would be to which the prosecutor replied “Soon,” almost running down the hallway. The deadline for arresting and indicting posted on the wall of our prison cell said 7 days of arrest, with 23 days of extension 23, adding up to a total of 30 days of  arresting time. As a result, the prosecution would indict within 30 days, with extension of 15 days with, the trial had to take place within 45 days. Even if I was indicted today, arrest dates would exceed 80 days. In China law enforcement agencies in the national judicial and law enforcement is too elastic. My arrested dates exceeded the double of the other prisoners so even if the investigation of the prosecutors were over, I wasn’t too expectant. All I did was pray and I seemed to hear the echoes of hymns that refugees used to sing in shelters. I told myself that I belonged to the Lord in life and in death and felt indebted to the Lord. Each line in the hymn seemed to be about our lives and I felt thankful yet desperate at the same time.


One evening, about ten days after the last investigation had taken place, my fellow were talking to me as if they found it strange that my indictment still hadn’t arrived. Then my cell doors opened and the officer on duty with two civilians yelled at me to come out. Before I even got near the door, a tall civilian handed me a few pieces of paper and asked me to sign. Ah-Loong who knew that I didn’t speak Chinese, quickly came and told me that my indictment had arrived. After I signed and returned the documents to civilian, he gave me a sheet of paper. From what I could see it was the indictment, which was completely written in Chinese. They all deserved to die. They knew that 60% of the prisoners were Mongolians and they used to translate indictment and sentencing into Mongolian for them. However, they didn’t even bother to translate Chinese for me, who was a South Korean. II inwardly swore and came back to bed. The other prisoners rushed forward and took my indictment and read it amongst themselves. There was a morbid tradition in the cell where they like to imagine the punishment after indictment or sentencing had arrived. I asked for my indictment back, once they were done reading it, and I attempted to read it in Chinese. I had read magazines in Chinese and had familiarized myself with the characters so I could roughly determine the content without a translator. The indictment was the charge statement from Xilin Gol League from the People’s Procurate and the it read that the People’s Republic of China was indicting me based on Criminal Law Article 318, 315, 312, mobilization, transportation of people, and other specific applications of criminal law (Supreme People’s Court) Article 1, Criminal Procedure Code 141 regulation. The content of indictment said that I had been planning to take three North Koreans to South Korea until we had been captured by the Border Police about 150 m north of Yiryeon Station and that I was being persecuted following Chinese Law. I had confessed to helping 27 refugees but only three were recorded on the indictment, my cellmates thought that I would head home to South Korea quickly after the trial. In the cell, each prisoner knew the crimes of the other and had good guesses about how the punishment would proceed. I had told my cell mates that I was arrested while trying to get North Koreans to Mongolia. After looking at my indictment, they told me that I was lucky to be South Korean and seemed jealous of me.


On November 24th, a little after lunch, the prison chief called me out and asked me if I had friends in South Korea. I told him that I didn’t have any close friends. His face held no trace of his usual demonic disposition and told me that I was lucky. I followed him to the prison visiting room where two men and a young woman seemed to be waiting for me. They came toward the window dividing us and greeted me with words of comfort for my troubles. I greeted them back and asked them why they came. They replied in Chinese that was close of Mongolian, which I found hard to understand. I told them I didn’t speak Chinese and asked for a translator. They gave the receiver to the young woman. She spoke to me in South Korean in a clear Seoul dialect that the two men were lawyers from Inner Mongolia Lawyer Association and that one was Han-Chinese Lawyer Tzu Chi-Wen and the other was Mongolian named Oohbatual. They showed me their red lawyer licenses with their photos and said that they came to help me. I was shocked. I told the Chinese Public Security that I had no intention of hiring a lawyer and I had repeated my stance when I received my indictment. How did they find me? They knew all about me. I told them that I told the Chinese Public Security and the Consulate that I wasn’t going to hire a lawyer and that I was broke and couldn’t possibly pay for their fees. I thanked them for their concern but asked them to return. They seemed shocked and one of the lawyers quickly exited to make a call. The translator kept asking me if I knew a Mr. Suh and Mr. Jung in Seoul? She said that they had paid for the lawyers and these two have come to help me get home quickly. She kept urging me to sign a document confirming that I wanted to use these lawyers. The two lawyers seemed to converse amongst themselves and showed me an envelope with a Seoul address on it and the name Lee Kyung-Chan written in Chinese. I said that I didn’t know that man, to which the lawyers replied that they had already received payment and that if I didn’t agree to employ them, they could attend my trial but wouldn’t be able to defend me. They kept urging me to sign. I didn’t want to use a stranger’s money and told the translator not to worry since I had been praying all day. The woman hurriedly replied that these men could be the gift of the Lord.


The lawyers asked the chief to give me these document and urged me to sign it. The chief  pointed out the line for me to sign and handed me a stamp pad . For some unknown reason, he was in a pleasant demeanor. I contemplated whether the Lord was truly helping. The woman told me that the lawyers would testify that my prison life was quiet and that if I plead guilty to all, I could get to South Korea quickly. They seemed to know what I was thinking about and said that my trial would take place in three days and that they will say that I was guilty to all charges. If I was honest during the trial, then I could get to South Korea quickly. It seemed like they had already begun something so I thanked them for their efforts. Their steps seemed light as they left.


As I returned to my cell I thought that maybe the Lord was finally helping me. Someone had paid for a lawyer, which was five times more expensive than normal Chinese lawyers. I couldn’t figure out who were Mr. Suh and Mr. Jung. Did the Lord send me angels out of pity? Apparently my lawyers held prestigious reputations in China as well. I didn’t think she was lying to me. This was a dream. I had walked a hard and lonely road without a place to unburden the weights on my soul. The only joy in my life was the phone call from refugees telling me that they arrived in Mongolia safely. That joy had been taken from me in this cold cell and I had been prepared to end my life here. My heart was broken at that though and I called out to the Lord hoping to ease the pain in my heart. My faith wasn’t deep or well trained, but I had taken each step with the belief that the Lord was watching over the refugees and me. My line of work was constantly facing risks and we had to ask for the protection of the Lord. He had finally extended his hand of salvation for me. “Thank you for not abandoning me. Thank you Lord.” I couldn’t stop expressing my gratitude out loud. If the court treated me fairly according to the charges in my indictment, then I would be freed without a doubt. There were tens of people I had helped escaped to the third country, and the many investigations carried out by the prosecution knew that. Yet, they could only list three defectors without exposing their outside sources. The indictment didn’t show a simple number mistake.