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"I Was a Broker" (31)
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2016-01-26 12:22:16
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 "I Was a Broker" (31)

 

RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist

Entered South Korea in 2000

 

 

Starting from 2006, new brokers appeared to con and scam every last cent from the defector’s pockets. The best representative of this case is Chul-Gyu, whom I had met in Yangi. He lived in Wangqing, Bakchogu and moved to Dunhua. He moved frequently to places where refugees were gathered and received thousands of won while promising to send them to South Korea. He said that he would tell the defectors how to get to South Korea when in reality he gave them a random name of a city, claiming that someone there would send them to South Korea. He would send them off without any guarantees. He was well known as a heinous man. He escaped North Korea when bounty hunters and human smugglers sold him to a poor household filled with old men or disabled people. He faced pain and beatings. He scammed money from women defectors by promising to keep their precious money safe. He sent defectors to unknown places and placed them in even greater danger. The first time I met Chul-Gyu was in January 2006. A missionary asked me to look after defectors in his shelter. I headed to a shelter where Chul-Gyu was also staying. There was a two young women and an old lady in the shelter. In-Chul, who was with them only a few days ago, had run away somewhere. It was dawn when I arrived at the shelter and it seemed like the defectors just woke up. Their faces seem troubled. As I looked around the room, there were blankets laid out on the floor. There was no bedding in the other room. Breakfast was only composed of rice and soy sauce, with a lump of cutlass fish for me. I don’t particularly like fish but I felt extremely uncomfortable since I was the only one given the extra dish. After breakfast, I asked how were the living situation for the refuges here. Nobody replied. I knew things were tough but it was incomprehensible that they were living without Kimchi or miso soup. I knew the person running the shelter very well. He was an honest missionary filled with great love for the defectors. I met him before I came back to China, and he said that he left enough to last them comfortably for a month. From what I could see, the women refugees didn’t even have bedding. They were barely fed and I couldn’t understand how the situation had deteriorated here. Before I left, I gave Chul-Gyu living expenses for a week and asked him to buy blankets and two radios and asked one to be placed in each room. I told him that the missionary in charge would be coming back soon and asked him to look after the shelter till then. I wondered about the young man that ran away from the shelter. What was he doing? Why didn’t he listen to the missionary? The silent and distressed faces of the defectors haunted me. After a few days, I was able to meet with In-Chul, who had run from the shelter. He told me that Chul-Gyu had been conning the refugee’s money. Chul-Gyu had been frequently gourmet restaurants with the money the missionary had left him and took all the bedding to his sister’s house. He would leech on to Korean missionaries and take his or her donations by claiming that he was helping defectors. He was also conning defectors by promising to send them to South Korea. After I met In-Chul, I moved the refugees to a different shelter. I met up with different defectors, and they all confirmed that Chul-Gyu had deceived many refugees with his promises of helping them get to South Korea.

 

Defectors wish to get to South Korea as much as they want to get to heaven. This new type of brokers exploiting such vulnerabilities and steal five thousand won by promising to introduce them to brokers. Refugees lead even more difficult lives due to these con men. Most broker help refugees get to the third country by navigating them through the perilous Chinese border area but these new brokers don’t even lift a finger. They steal the money that defectors worked so hard to make. They are frauds. Oh Young-Su, living in Hunchun, is one of these despicable vampires. He is short with a dark face, and he claim to help defectors and asked for my help in getting them to South Korea. He was short with a dark face and I was pleased to see such honest men working in China. After a while I learned that defectors paid him 5000 won just to be introduced to me. Young-Su held no consideration for the situation of the refugees and demanded money if they wished to be introduced to brokers. He warned the defectors not to reveal that he had demanded money from them when they met with brokers. The defectors that I had met didn’t tell me that they paid Young-Su, only confessing later. Defectors coming from Hunchun shared that Young-Su told them that he would only help defectors after they paid him. Toward the end of 2006, Young-Su told me that there were defector siblings living in hardship in Hunchun and asked for my help. I decided that it would be difficult for siblings to settle somewhere safely so I agreed to meet them in Hunchun. However, Young-Su said that they weren’t there at the moment, and continued to claim that they kept moving. I wanted to meet them and bring them to a shelter but I was unable to. April 2007, I was finally able to meet them in person. Sung-Bok was the elder sister with a strong personality. She was talkative and diligent. I learned from them that they had been trying to get to South Korea for a while, but was unable to find the right connections. They met Oh Young-Su two years ago and he had told them that he was helping defectors get to South Korea. He said that he would help the siblings if they brought 5,000 won each. They were unable to pay him and he didn’t introduce them with people able to take them to South Korea. He had told them that they would be swindled if they left and they remained in Hunchun. Oh Youn-Su told me that he pitied the defectors and helped them with everything he had. When he brought me defectors, he would be exceedingly kind to them in my presence while stealing their money behind their backs. People like him are cold-hearted villains who did everything to rob young defectors of their money. The defectors that fell prey to his promises never left him, believing that one day he would show them the way to South Korea. They were losing time and money. I knew a few more ‘new’ brokers in Hunchun. Even in other areas, there were scoundrels that gave empty promises and demanded 5,000 won each. They would take defectors elsewhere and claim that they had run out of money and asked the defectors to ask their husbands to send them 10,000 won more. These ‘new’ brokers would threatened to sell them if they didn’t pay up. The reason why I hate these ‘new’ brokers is because they held no compassion for the desperate situations of the defectors. They were draining everything from the defectors. They were unconcerned with the lives of the defectors and only sought to use the refugee’s desires to cheat them of their money. It was incomprehensible to me. It was a beastly act and this was why many defectors could never find the way to South Korea, falling in the ravenous mouths of these soulless predators. Women defectors living in the country were especially susceptible to these since they had no access to outside information. They were not only losing money but also their body and their hearts.

 

That year in March, I learned that a woman defector was asking for my help. I called her and asked her how she had been deceived. She said that she was from Hamgeyongbuk-do Saebyeol in North Korea and came to China about two years ago after finding it difficult to survive. The police strictly patrolled her little village in the mountains and she wanted to get to South Korea. She tried to get there but was not able to establish the right connections. A friend in the village introduced her to a broker who claimed that he could take her to South Korea if she paid him 5,000 won in advance. She gave him the money that she had been preciously saving. She set out with six other women refugees. However, they were tricked by the broker and were sold to the Chinese. The broker locked up the women in an inn and called their husbands and threatened to sell them unless they paid him 10,000 won. The woman that called me had managed to escape from the inn. It wasn’t just individuals that were guilty of exploiting refugees. Churches were reprehensible as well. They demanded lots of money in exchange for telling refugee how to get to South Korea. Of course many were honest people, but some of them used their position as missionaries and deacons and demanded money before introducing refugees to Korean missionaries or brokers. They saw refugees as useful tools in taking advantages of donations given by human rights organizations or by missionaries. They weren’t following the word of god but acted as if it was their way of making a living. While in China, I sometimes saw these events occur. I would wish that Korean missionaries employed well-educated individuals in this sensitive line of work. Even now, there are many defectors hiding in China, looking for ways to get to South Korea. These refugees can never be at ease since they are chased by the Chinese Public Police. Even if they wanted to get to South Korea, they were susceptible to chicanery. They were sacrificial lambs of the era, abandoned and shunned by those around them.