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"I Was a Broker" (4)
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2016-01-26 10:43:52
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 "I Was a Broker" (4) 


RYU Sang-Joon

North Korean defector and activist 

Entered South Korea in 2000


Toward the end of 2006, someone had called me saying that they helped North Korean refugees and that they wanted my help in getting them into South Korea. I responded that I would be more than willing to help those who wanted to make a living for themselves in South Korea. However, I added that if the caller intended to demand 1,000,000 Won or more, than I am unwilling to help. The caller insisted that they helped refugees as a volunteer service. As a result, I had helped a few refugees get into Mongolia through a few phone calls in January. In February, the caller shared that a 22 year-old woman, named Sung-Sun, was set to depart from Yingkou alone. I had demanded that there be a guardian sent with her and that I would not help her if she came alone. That was when Im-Chul had accompanied Sung-Sun to YeonGil to meet me there. Sung-Sun was 22 year-old woman, who was quite short, carrying a tattered bag. I warned her that we would have to walk 32 km to which she responded that she had walked about 60 km. I was amazed at her determination despite her short statute. We only had to walk 16 km in actuality but I wanted to see if she was mentally prepared. I took her to the market where I bought her a pair of shoes and a new bag and gave her some allowance to spend. I told her to buy whatever she wanted to eat from now on but asked her to diligently study the Bible and pray until the day of all of our freedom arrives. Sung-Sun told me that her mind was at peace thanks to my suggestion. 


I used to copy songs based on democratization of North Korean and give them to refugees. Sung-Sun informed me that at the shelter she was in previously, she had heard tapes of songs based on democratization of North Korea. Even now, I can still imagine the sight of her tears listening to those songs. It wasn’t just Sun-Sun. The four women in the shelter probably let tears fall also, thinking of their homelands.  They had left their parents, siblings and their home behind and they had probably cried at the injustice of Kim Jung-Il’s dictatorship.  I had shared stories such as this during my first night at the Siringworeo detention center. I quietly searched for God in prayer. “ Lord, I am here. There are so many lives being lost in this land. Please save us.” I tried to get some sleep but I ended up tossing and turning for hours. It had been days since the first day we had left and I haven’t been able to sleep all this time. My body was completely exhausted but couldn’t fall asleep and moments of my life seemed to pass before my eyes. Most of my memories were mostly sad and lonely rather than happy, and filled with uncertainty. Yet there were still moments of hope during those times. The people I had met the when I left Hanawon such as Han Dong-Sik from Northern Pohang Church, Cho Yun-Ju deacon and his wife, they were true believers of Jesus and they had guided me to the Lord with their honesty, love, and humbleness. 


There was also B, the missionary couple who had devoted themselves to prayer for me, helping me and other refugees spiritually and physically through providing supplies for us. They had loved the refugees if they were their own sons, and had cried countless tears for all of us. B and his wife had raised these refugees and when they came to South Korea, they made helped them keep their faith. They have become motherly figures to young North Korean refugees. When I was in China, they used to call me all the time asking me if I had eaten and invited me for dinner at their house if I was near by. If I were unable go, they had insisted that they would prepare food and leave it at their house for me, or inviting me over whenever I could make it. They had prepared delicious food for the refugees, since I would only be able to afford the cheapest food for the refugees if we were in the market by ourselves. Whenever I could not find a shelter for the refugees, they had happily lent us a room. Furthermore, whenever I asked them to give the refugees lessons in Bible studies, they would make it their number one priority. Out of all the refugees that I have helped over the years, about half has been taught the words of the Lord through B, the missionary. Before we had left for third country as an escape route, B would come and pray for our safety and success. Over the years, I had begun to understand the power of prayer. The refugees at Hanawon used to tell me over the phone how B’s prayer had given the strength and that they had drawn power from his prayers when crossing over the border. Many such as Ok-Mi, Man-Ok, the Cho couple, had believed their escape to be possible and successful thanks to B’s prayers. I loved the B couple as if they were my teachers, siblings. Our relation has strengthened over years with our mutual faith for the Lord and powerful love for the refugees. 


There’s a man, who claims to be same-age friend of mine, has been fervently supporting North Korean refugees in China. Even at his age, whenever he hears that there is a refugee, he will put aside everything to look after them, whether they are near or far.  It is mesmerizing to watch him how he spreads the word of the Lord. He is filled with such passion that even makes me feel like I am not faithful enough to the Lord. He used to explain the Bible to them excitingly by drawing pictures on paper. Overall, he takes such a good care of the refugees. 


The first time I met him was in mid-January 2006. I had arrived in YeonGil and called him saying that someone had indicated that I introduce myself to you and explained where I was. He replied that he would be on his way right away. I told him that it would be tiring for him to come this far. It had taken me all night to get here, standing on a full train. Yet, he, who was older than me, reassured me that he would be fine and that he would leave tonight and that we would meet up the next day. I felt guilty all day at calling him right away and the fact that he is coming this far just for me. 


The next day, he called and told me when and where to meet him. I had arrived at the place, earlier than our meeting time, and tried to look for him, imagining his face and form through his voice. I was unable to find him thus called him to tell him where I was and ask him what he was wearing. He gave me a mischievous reply, asking me to look for the most handsome man there. In just a few moments later, we were able to meet up and shared brief greetings. He suggested that we should relocate to a different place and discuss matters that needed to be taken care of right away. Due to time constraints, we could only talk briefly and I told him about B, the missionary. We met up with B and the two talked about the work that they have done over the years. B and I had to head for Hunchun so I said by good-byes when the man insisted that he drive us all the way to Hunchun. He waited outside for a long time while we took care of our businesses and drove us back to YeonGil safely. He thought of himself as a North Korean, and he was a practical person, filled with determination and vision. He said his good-bye and told me to call him when I was passing through a certain district. He said he would buy me a bed space on the train and that we should be friends as if we were of the same age. 


Once, the thought of going on a long trip made me nervous. Therefore, I asked him book me a train ticket. He bought me a ticket with a bed. When I tried to pay him for it, he refused and scorned me for neglecting the fact that we are friends. Even when we were getting a cup of tea, he would speak of life and soul in a comfortable, easy to understand way. Afterwards, I felt like I was inconveniencing him and didn’t ask him for train tickets. Yet, he was very upset about it so that I could only promise him that I would swing by his house when I was near. 


When he received a phone call from refugees he had raised who were living in Mongolia, he screamed with happiness. Later, I discovered so many good deeds he had done.  I realized that he was an honest good man, who was sent by the Lord. We have created a close network of contacts, which provided us of substantial amount of support and aid. As a part of my unique job, I had met villains and angels but these trustworthy and honest men of God taught me love and helped me lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. They helped me form my dreams and gave me hope and strength to face my risky work.