|"I Was a Broker" (35)|
"I Was a Broker" (35)
North Korean defector and activist
Entered South Korea in 2000
On December 15th, a short overweight police officer interrupted my breakfast and asked me to bring out my bedding and my toiletries. My blanket was the cheapest kind that I had procured from a military store with the cotton poking out in odd places. I headed to night duty room where young civilians in plain clothes waited for me. The prison officer gave me a large cardboard box and told me to pack. There were a few pairs of socks, underwear and a bible inside the box. As I inspected the outside of the box I figured out that the box was from Beijing, most likely from the South Korean Embassy. I packed my small hand luggage and asked for my personal belongings in storage, including the money that the Embassy had sent to me. The officer frowned as if it was the first time he had heard of it and told me that he didn’t know. The South Korean Embassy had sent me a paper box about 30 kg filled with clothes, food, medical supplies and vitamin supplements. The officers at the prison must have taken the contents for themselves, including the money. I was already angry about the days I was left to rot in the prison yet the thought of the prison stealing a foreigner’s possessions and money made me angry beyond belief. I yelled at the officer on duty to find my money. The officers seemed to know that stealing the prisoner’s possessions was not in accordance was customs and seemed shocked at my demand as they slinked away. The civilians in the room asked me what object and what money I was demanding from the officers. I showed them the empty box and told them that they had stolen the goods and the money the South Korean Embassy had sent to me. They didn’t seem to care and urged me to leave since they were pressed for time. They inspected my passport and the good retrieval list that I had signed and told me that they had already booked the 10:30 am flight tomorrow morning and warned me to be on time. We quickly hurried out the prison and I gave a perfunctory glance over the building. The firm iron doors, the tall fence separating the inside from the outer world, and the threatening electrical fence—in the tall towers of the prison, guards were looking down at us. I had buried my dreams here until my fate was changed. I felt suffocated just by merely looking at it. The two civilians had already gotten in the car and yelled at me to quickly get in. Our car raced South across the frozen field. It would be more comfortable to move by train but as the car passed the station, I asked them why we didn’t take the train. They replied that it wouldn’t be possible to make my flight my train. They said that they were soldiers working with Su Ingji from Xilin Gol League Border public police and explained that they were different from the officers in the prison. I think they wanted to share that they were different from the corrupt officers in the prison. After their explanation I recognized the youngest man as the officer who was in charge of Eun-Sim when I had first been sent to Xilin Gol League from Yiryeon. The other two soldiers were strangers to me. The youngest man explained that two Mongolian officers and one Han-Chinese officer were in charge to taking me to Shenyang. The Mongolian officer looked at my clothes and told me that I would freeze to death like that as he handed me a large military winter coat. He told me to sleep. I used the winter coat as a blanket and leaned back and tried to sleep. Sleep didn’t come easily. I think unconsciously, I was overexcited at the mere prospect of returning to South Korea. Unable to sleep, I asked an officer for the Bible. He seemed to find my action funny and handed me my bible with a laugh. The Bible fell open to eleventh chapter in the Hebrews. I couldn’t interpret all the words in the Bible yet I had heard the sermon on this chapter before. It was a chapter I enjoyed reading. I read the verse, “And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” (Hebrews 11:12, 11:13) suddenly I felt as if I had been blindsided. I had believed that the Lord would help me and after years of cross the Yellow River, I had been imprisoned with my fellow companions dragged away to unknown fates. Wasn’t I returning alone? I should be punished by death for my sins. I couldn’t face myself. The endless desert was covered with white snow and the road was covered in ice due to since they hadn’t cleared the snow yet. The ice made it difficult for the cars on the road. We traveled without resting and finally arrived in Shenyang the day at 4 am. We looked for a place to stay yet all the motels were occupied. We wandered around and finally procured a room. As soon as we entered, the officers fell asleep right away, since they must have been tired from driving all night. They must have been exhausted and annoyed from driving all night yet no one complained. As a result I was able to calm myself down and get to Shenyang without trouble. The room was filled with the snores of the officers. I was still unable to sleep. I think I was overcome with the dream-like thought of returning home.
Around 6am, the officers woke up bleary eyed, as if they hadn’t been able to fall into a deep sleep with the weight of their responsibility heavy in their minds. They got ready and inspected a few documents before we left. Early morning in Shenyang was filled with the sharp smell of coal gas and people wearing colorful clothes busily went about their business under the typically Chinese red neon signs. Shenyang seemed a lot friendlier than Siliyin Qota. It was rush hour so cars filled up the streets and our car slowly crawled out of the heavy traffic and into the airport. There was a tall officer in the parking lot waiting for us as if he had received word that we were coming. The officers accompanying me spoke with this man and the tall man inspected me up and down. We followed into the Border Security Office where many soldiers reconfirmed my passport. The officers that accompanied me had disappeared and I sat alone in the waiting room waiting for the next steps. The officers seemed busy and processing me didn’t seem to be an easy task. From what I could see I got the sense that there were a lot of inadequacies in the contacting process between Inner Mongolia and the border area near Liaoning. I waited about an hour in the waiting room when one of the officers that had escorted me asked me to follow him. We weaved through the busy area and headed toward airport departure desks where another border guard recognized my face. He reconfirmed my identity. The officer with me told me to skip the security check after the passport control and told me to head to another place. I told him that I understood which passageway I had to go to and the officer took me back to the waiting room. It seemed a lot of time passed since I saw many travelers checking in. If something went wrong in the border area, it would be difficult for me to get home today. I felt nervous because I thought check-in time might be over soon when an officer gave me my boarding pass and passport and told me to just bypass the security and customs since there were no soldiers there. The officers had a camcorder as if they intended to film something. The officer escorting me told me that I could now pass customs and board the plane. He escorted me to customs where I thanked him for helping me. The officers had accompanied so far and expressed a lot of concern for my well-being, helping to make my travel as smooth as possible. They were different from the officers in the prison and they talked about refugees comfortably. I was truly grateful for their help on my way here. As I passed through customs alone, and headed toward the gates, the officers were following me with a camcorder. I turned to look at them and they indicated that I should look forward and ignore them. The gates were already closed but the officers seemed to explain something. They opened the gates and I was able to get onboard the plane. Inside the plane, all of my anxieties seemed to melt away. The officers followed me into the plane, filming me until I sat down. I found my seat with the help of the flight attendant. The moment I had been dreaming and longing for was a reality now and I was overcome with joy. On the other hand, a part of me was weighed down by the thought of people still suffering in China. There are many people still hiding from the Chinese public police. The people that used to work with me must have been worried sick. I was now free to enter and exit China but I wanted the refugees to gain the same freedom as me. The plane vibrated loudly as if it was ready to take off. I was finally on my way home thanks to house who loved and cared for me. “Lord, I am always grateful. Thank you.” I thanked the Lord through prayer. The screen showed the flight route and we were quickly entering South Korean seas. As the plane finally entered my homeland, I felt like it was welcoming me home like a mother to a wayward son.