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"I Was a Broker" (12)
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2016-01-26 11:29:44
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"I Was a Broker" (12)


RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000



The data must have came from Mongolia. I think the exchange of data was included in the alliance China made with Mongolia. I insisted that I didn’t know anything about the group in 2006 and insisted that I started looking for routes in December 2006, and helping three to five refugees starting January 2007. I had downplayed the number of refugees with such lies and narrowed it down to 27 people. The trial would be held within 15-30 days. I just wanted to get everything over with. Every day during Zwaibal (Eight hours per day where prisoners sit in a row on a bed and reflecting upon their crimes), I would desperately pray and pray. I had never received proper religious belief training and I didn’t know how to pray well. Even while operating a shelter, I had asked those who were capable of teaching the Bible to come and teach the word of the Lord. Only when we were on the road with the refugees would I step up and gather us together a prayer to the Lord for our success.


I sat wondering what had gone wrong this time and repeatedly prayed the long hours away. “Oh Lord, I’m a sinner in your eyes but I am not a sinner on this land. I could not turn my back on those who were calling out to me in pain.” In the long hours, sometimes my prayers would halt and then hymns would pop into my mind. I became hardened and felt myself grow away from the Lord.  Was the Lord punishing me? In my thoughts, I began to hold resentment for the lord. I had no money or glory, nor did I have a warm home and family waiting for me. I wasn’t gifted like the others so I had never paraded my refugees in front of churches, citizen’s organizations, and refugee organizations. Those who have arrived before December 2006 don’t even know my name or my contact numbers. I wasn’t looking to get money from them, nor did I have anything for them to do. There was no reason for me to seek them out. Also, if I started seeking them out, I could be an inconvenient burden to them. Wherever they are, I just hoped that they had a successful new life. I knew nothing about places that worked for advertisement effects. Even if there were a few defectors that I wanted to see, I didn’t want to burden them. That was how I had always lived. 


Yet, the Lord chose to punish me? I did not understand. If the Lord was truly with me, how could this happen to me? I always made sure to help the refugees for free or for the lowest cost possible, and even though the defectors hated and despised my methods, I would still pray for their safe return. When the situation called for it, I met my hardships with strength and determination. If I hesitated when I needed to make a decision, the refugees that were following me might have to pay for my indecision with their lives. I had known such things and strictly emphasized the need for order during our three-country escape. I believed that only then would I be able to protect their live and safety. There was nothing left for me. Even if I was sacrificed, I had to bring the problem of NK defectors to attention. Because I had such thoughts, I could demand that to be sent back to North Korea with other defectors. If not, I had to pull something in the prison. Everything that came afterwards would be taken care of by the people in Korea. I didn’t want all of my work to go to waste. I only put aside a little bit of time for resting and dedicated all of my hours to prayer. My prayers were not well polish but I spoke the truth from my heart. I did not know what the Lord wanted from me. I prayed and I sang and I prayed. I don’t think I had ever depended on Lord as much as I did then. What was a person’s life? If one were ready to die, then a quick death would be the most merciful. If not, then freedom would be best. Without realizing it myself, I had decided that I wanted to live but I had no desire to live like a coward. I wanted to let go of my greed through prayer and hymns. As I imagined hymns in my head, sometimes I would feel tears stream down my cheeks. Oh Lord, where are you? Why have you forsaken me? I shouted and pleaded silently out to the Lord in my head. I had taken this road of my own volition, and I had walked this lonely road, wasting the golden years of my life away. That road had come to an end here. What a bitter life! Through prayer, I slowly regained my sanity in the mechanically repetitive prison life, and I had time to reflect on my life so far.


When I arrived in Korea for the first time, I was sent to Pohang. There, I had taken my first steps as a Korean. Kim Chang-Sik, my detective in charge, became an older brother figure for me. He looked after my adjustment to my life and made me feel welcome in this new land. I began to feel like I was at home and through him I had met Han Dongsik and Cho Yun-ju from North Pohang Church and they had worked so hard to help me find a job as well as to build my life of faith. I could never forget them. They were friendly and honest and put more effort into finding me work than they would have for their own siblings. I ended up working for Pohang Iron & Steel Company. They considered my experience in North Korea and got be hired at a corporation and they planned to put me in the quality control department. In North Korea, I had worked as quality control officer for more than 10 years, which gave me experience working with difficult machine plans and many specialized equipments. However, in South Korea, the labels and descriptions on the machine’s plans were all in English. It took me a lot of effort to do the work that was assigned to me. The corporation was very grand and clean, and welfare program for the employees was the best in every single way.


I had only been working there for a short time when the unexpected happened and forced me to quit my job. I felt apologetic for the Han Dong-Sik couple that had worked so hard to get me this job despite other hardships in their life. I visited them and told them that I would resign quietly and head to Seoul. I added that I never want what had happened to me to occur again as long as I’m alive. I wanted to give my all and find a job in Seoul. They were concerned that I would give up such a good opportunity and leave. However, my mind was made up. I wasn’t going to look back. Before I left for Seoul, they asked me to come back anytime if things go too hard. They worried that I would wander aimlessly about Seoul, and asked me to manage Posco Club (the soccer team for Pohang Iron & Steel Company) training grounds. The Posco Club training grounds is on the northern outskirts of the city. The Eastern Sea was spread out before it with a calm pine forest to one side. It beauty rivaled that of the Songdowong Beach in Wenshan, and the surrounding view beautifully complemented the complex. If this was North Korea, I think it would have been Kim Il Sung’s villa. Civilians in North Korea could never hope to go near the vicinity of Songdowong’s Myungsa-Shipli, which was considered the most picturesque spots in North Korea. It was because there were private villas belonging to the upper classes in those areas.


Starting of fall 2001, I have worked as a volunteer for X missionary organization. At the time, I didn’t understand why so many defectors were arrested by the police and forcefully repatriated. I still have trouble understanding why. Shelters teach refugees safety rules and if everyone helped each other to survive rather than looking out just for themselves, I don’t think as many people would have been hurt. Especially if those responsible for taking care of refugees such as shelter manager and the missionaries had been warned properly and if they tried to take full responsibility for the safety of the refugees then more than half of the refugees captured would be free right now.