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"I Was a Broker" (33)
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2016-01-26 12:25:04
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"I Was a Broker" (33)


RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000



The main problem in supporting refugees and running shelters lies in finding refugees and finding those who are willing to look after their lives and their education. There are defectors who need special attention and they need to be moved to a shelter and be provided for. Someone needs to be responsible for their care but there are not enough people who can take on such a responsibility. As a result, they are unable to be safely located within shelters. Many wander around the streets. From June 2004 to March 2005, I tried to operate three to four shelters. However I couldn’t operate it without enough people to support me so I had to give up the houses I had rented out. Often, I would find people operating my shelters secretly sneaking into karaoke and I would have to pay fines to the owners of the karaoke bar before bringing them back to the shelter.  Now and then missionaries working in Yanbian would come to our shelter couple times a week to teach them faith and look after them. The problem was that they feared approaching the shelters to begin with. Sometimes, instead of educating the defectors, they would simply take photos of defectors and claim that they would request aid from their churches.  They would simply take photos of the living situations of the defectors as if appeased their conscience and maintained their honor. They wouldn’t provide financial assistance to shelters and thought it grand that they were granted access to the shelters, with only their camera in their hands. For the safety of the missionaries, I made them shut the curtains of one side of the building as a signal to indicate whether the specific shelter was safe to enter or not. However, even if we decided on phone calls and curtain signals, they wouldn’t enter the shelter but wander outside, creating distress and anxiety for the defectors within. After such incidents, it was decided that we wouldn’t allow unconfirmed people to educate the refugees.


Early 2000, the missionaries and churches in South Korea provided intense aid for the children born to women defectors and Chinese men. It was their attempt at providing aid for the defectors. They claimed falsely that children in China were starving and were often arrested by the Chinese Public Police and were forcefully repatriated. Children born in China were legally Chinese and they faced no danger from the Chinese Public Police, nor did they face starvation. False advertisement led them to focus in the wrong direction in providing aid. They created danger since they believed they were providing aid for the defected children when in reality they were helping Chinese children. I could understand helping all children but helping Chinese children under the name of helping defector was blatant deception. They were neglecting defectors facing danger daily. Starting in 2003, many people who helped defectors returned to South Korea and said that they were heading toward Southeast Asia. They claimed that China was too dangerous. The widespread knowledge is that defectors in China have nowhere to go, that they are terrified of the Chinese Public Police, and that once they get to the third country, most of the danger has passed. If they abandon the defectors living in true danger and go to Vietnam or Thailand, what will the defectors living in South Korea or defectors living in China think about them? I don’t allow refugees to stay for long in a shelter. I only let them stay there for a month, or three at the most. The defectors living in shelters wanted to go to South Korea as soon as possible. There were no guarantees of safety at the shelter and no one knew what would happen to them next. If I couldn’t help them with my abilities, I would look for a place to protect them, or give them to brokers with deferred payment systems. I tried my best to get them to South Korea as quickly as I could.


Fall 2006, I got a phone call from a woman defector that I had sent to Beijing. They had just made it to South Korea, months after I had sent them to the shelter. She told me that they studied the Bible and people at the shelter often sent the refugees to North Korea to work as missionaries. Refugees at the shelter wanted to get to South Korea but they had to be faithful to the Lord and if they were sent to North Korea to prove their unyielding faith. From what I assume, they probably created missionaries out of defectors in that manner. I learned from her that many refugees had been sent back to North Korea to continue their religious training and that many returned after having spent all of their money elsewhere. I asked her if she believed in the Lord. She replied that she only followed their instructions because there was no other way of getting to South Korea and that she believed that people running the shelter were faithless frauds. I believed that it was good to know the Bible whether one was a defector or not, and I believed that it was up to the Lord to convert those to the word of the Lord. If one cannot differentiated between his or her responsibilities and the responsibilities of the Lord, then it is to be blinded in self-righteousness with defectors in direct line of fire. This might cause people to live with the wrong idea of religious faith. I think those supporting refugees in China ignored the dire situation of the refugees and just saw them as tools in their religion. While in China, I met defectors coming out of North Korea as well as those entering North Korea for missionary purposes. Yet, they didn’t have as much faith as I thought and were only driven by their survival. Young defectors who were judged to have near zealous faith would eventually con the missionaries by using the missionaries’ money for their own purposes. I was barely able to restrain my disgust when I witnessed a young man easily lie about establishing a pig farm in North Korea and providing fish for poor civilians. I knew he was lying because he had a friend in South Korea that he studied the bible with. I also confirmed his lies through those frequently entering and exiting North Korea. One should not easily trust North Koreans when they claim to believe in the Lord . I had spent my life believing in one god but I believe that it is wrong for them to believe in the Lord when their lives are lead by deceit and treachery. Furthermore, their false faith can be used by missionaries as false pretext for them to further their positions. I wonder if the missionaries know the true fate of the  machines and the grains they had sent as aid.


 Defectors in China only wish to be safe and avoid repatriation at all costs. Missionary organizations use the refugees’ desire to get to South Korea and they send them back to North Korea after training them in faith. These missionaries and missionary organizations need to rethink this practice and never force the refugees to return to North Korea to spread the faith, using getting to South Korea as blackmail. Would these missionaries be able to send their sons, daughters, and grandchildren into North Korea in the name of the Lord? The Lord never insisted on forceful conversion—Jesus would insist on helping these refugees unconditionally. Jesus Christ is the Lord of the living and the dead. The lives of these defectors are precious and their physical bodies need to be safe and healthy in order to provide a proper vessel in which spiritual growth of their souls can take place. The Lord said that the body is a vessel of the soul and that it is priceless. I believe that we need to cooperate to extend unconditional aid for the refugees hiding out in China to open up paths of survival for them. I am still in a difficult place but there are people of the Lord in China helping defectors with love. They have been helping refuges amidst danger and have valuable experiences and lessons that we can all learn from. They are like living instruction manuals. I hope that those who have devoted their life with an infinite sacrificial spirit may remain in history of mankind as truly respectable people who understand the priceless value of life.