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Profiles of 7 NK Refugees

The 7 North Koreans

Below are profiles of the seven North Korean refugees
Dated September, 2006 in Thailand

Note: The names of all seven refugees have been changed In this document, to protect the safety of family members still living in North Korea.

Name: Kang Myong-hi
Year of Birth: 1971
Gender: Female
Home: Chorwon District, Kangwondo, North Korea

I served as a forestry officer for 5 years when I defected to China in 2004.

My father was an electrician. My brother was a very strong boy and was recruited by a special combat unit of the North Korean Army. His military service was marred by repeated incidents of deserting his military camp to find food outside. Then, he was sent to a mine where his head was injured by an accident in a mine tunnel. The combined effect of the mining accident and his wife's decision to leave him just month after the birth of their first baby, a girl, caused him to have a nervous breakdown. He was frequently in trouble with his father, whose salary was insufficient to support the family. One day, he returned home drunk and turning to his baby who was slowly dying of malnutrition, he cried out, "Look, my little girl is going to die! If she has to die anyway, I am going to kill her!" He picked up the baby and threw her to the floor several times in the presence of my father and myself. We could no longer tolerate the deranged scene and reported it to the police. My brother refused to eat until the day of his death in police custody. This shocking tragic incident motivated me to defect from North Korea and seek a new life. I was even prepared to be a wife of a Chinese farmer but I was sold instead to a restaurant owner in China.

The little amount of savings I was able to collect by working and a regular diet of good food in China made me imagine what a happy life I could have led with my brother if he had been able to come to China with his wife and baby. This thought has made my anger grow ever stronger against the most inhumane North Korean regime. One day, I happened to read a Christian magazine and contacted a South Korean Christian who helped me to arrive here in Laos on my way to freedom and safety.

I wish to study psychology in Korea or the United States, countries of freedom and human rights. I wish to be able to help other people who suffer distress as I am now.

Name: Chung Won-mi
Year of Birth: 1980
Gender: Female
Home: Hyesan, Yanggang Province, North Korea

My mother died many years ago and my father suffered bad health. My brother was only 22 years old. Our life in North Korea was very miserable and, in fact, we were suffering from chronic hunger. I had been in the illegal cross-border business of selling copper when I was kidnapped by some Chinese in 1996 in my hometown of Hyesan, a North Korean border town with China.

Widespread rumor in my hometown at that time held that a young girl's blood was in high demand in China for rejuvenating purposes and that the bodies of young girls, all drained of blood, were often found in Changbai, China, across the river from my hometown. The victims were reportedly hung upside down to drain blood from the mouth. The tongue was rumored to be cut off for this purpose. I thought I would fall victim to the same rumored fate when kidnapped. When I awoke, I found myself in a small room. They gave me good food each meal. I was detained there for about 20 days. One day, there were many visitors in the house and it was quite noisy. Then, the noise stopped for a while and I concluded that the kidnappers had gone outside to entertain their visitors or something similar. I managed to push open the door and climb over the high wall, about 3 meters, by stepping over desks, buckets and basins. I ran to a main road and jumped on a bus that was passing by. In the bus, there was a kind man who somehow recognized that I was a girl from North Korea. After disembarking from the bus, he found me a taxi, telling me to take the taxi to Yanji because travel by bus was too dangerous for a North Korean in China.

Even now I don't fully know what kind of place I was detained in. I remember that there were many large glass syringes and plenty of white cloth. I had been working in a restaurant in fear of arrest any time when I was came in contact with a Christian group in 2005. I yearn for freedom and the life of a human being and no longer the fearful existence of an animal. I hope to go to South Korea or the United States, if possible. I have received meager education in North Korea. I want to study hard in South Korea or America and be a teacher.

Name: Han Na
Year of Birth: 1985
Gender: Female
Home: Hweryong, North Hamkyong Province, North Korea

In 1998, my parents, brother (17 years old) and I defected to China for freedom for the first time. However, my parents were arrested at a Chinese airport while attempting to take a flight to South Korea. Since that time, I have been arrested and repatriated 7 times but was released after periods from1 to 6 months due to my young age. The last time I defected to China was in October 2004. I was in a Christian shelter operated by a Chinese with funds from South Korea. But he was dishonest. For example, I was at a school for only a month but he kept receiving money for my tuition from South Koreans and he even raped a 9-year old girl. Then, I escaped from the shelter and then met South Korean Christians in Shenyang who helped me until now in Laos. I like to write a book about my experience of arrests in China and horrendous detentions in North Korea 7 times. I want to go to South Korea or America and to learn foreign trade business there.

Name: Choi Jong-ae
Year of Birth: 1973
Gender: Female
Hometown: Hweryong, North Hamkyong Province, North Korea

My parents died when I was only a little child. I have three brothers. After my graduation from middle school in my hometown, I became a worker at a paper mill company. I was forced to defect to China in August, 1998 because of hunger and the hard life North Koreans must endure. I became the wife of a Korean-Chinese man and now have a 4 year-old daughter from him. The fear of arrest any time and widespread rumor that a new wave of thorough crackdown was imminent on North Korean defectors prompted me to seek an opportunity to leave China. I was very lucky to be in contact with South Korean Christians. I am here in Laos today on my way to South Korea with their help. I want to be a tailor in South Korea.

Name: Kim Jung-ae
Year of Birth: 1967
Gender: Female
Hometown: Kilchu, North Hamkyong Province, North Korea

My parents came to North Korea from China during the period of the Cultural Revolution in China. I was a very good student and had an excellent academic record but was prevented from entering college for reason of my family background. I became a farmer at a cooperative farm and was discontent with the North Korean regime.

In September, 2002, I defected to China to get some help from a relative in China. On my way back to China, I was involved in a traffic accident and was seriously injured. I had to leave the hospital without any medical treatment, because I had no money. Then, I was arrested in China and begged the Chinese police for treatment before repatriation. This appeal was not accepted, but they gave me a grace period of 3 days for rest. When I was sent back to North Korea after that short period, North Korean authorities gave no regard whatsoever to my physical condition of limping and pain; I was subjected to hard work at a labor training camp. I received some sympathy in China but no sympathy at all in my own country of North Korea which became a living hell to me.

In March, 2006, I defected to China again by breaking the ice on the Tumen River. Luckily, I was in contact with South Korean Christians and, with their understanding and sympathy, I am in Laos today on my way to South Korea. I wish to study very hard and be a Chinese language teacher in South Korea.

Name: Lee Jong-sin
Year of Birth: 1970
Gender: Female
Hometown: Riwon District, South Hamkyong Province, North Korea

My father died when I was only 3 years old and my mother passed away some years later. After my graduation from the middle high school in 1986, I became a farmer I became a farmer at a state farm. I have two brothers who are still in North. I had worked at the state farm for four years when I married a miner. I have two daughters, who were 7 and 4 years old when I defected to China in April 1998 to seek help from a relative in China. I was aware that leaving without a visa constituted a crime in North Korea but the grinding poverty in North Korea drove me to such an extreme. In my heart, I never considered my action as anything bad and believed that this was simply my right to freedom. In fact, on my way to freedom, I was caught and interrogated for five days by the State Security Agent (SSA) in Onsong District. The brutal beating, kicking and associated degrading treatment that I endured there will be forever etched in my memory. I remember that a 19 year-old girl managed to make her way outside the cell under pretext of using the toilet. She then somehow crossed over the tall wall and disappeared. Unfortunately, she was arrested following morning while attempting to cross the Tumen River to China. She was hung on a bar and all the guards kicked, punched and beat her as they passed by, all within clear sight of us prisoners. I don't know what happened to her after that but she was so badly beaten that I would be very surprised if she survived. The incident kindled my anger against North Korea even more. I was released at around 2 o'clock in the afternoon on the 5th day in this hell. I lost no time and made another risky crossing to China at about 7 p.m. on the very same day.

In China, with the help of relatives, I worked as a hairdresser for about one year. But the ever-present fear of arrest and my haunting memories of the North Korean hell compelled me to take the step of marrying a Chinese man to gain even the barest degree of security. I now have a boy who is 7 years old. Despite my marriage, the fear of arrest haunted me day and night. I finally settled on the decision to go to South Korea to be a citizen with full rights and to be rid once and for all of the constant fear of arrest. I am a Catholic now.

In early August, 2006, I joined a group of five North Korean women in China on the way to South Korea with the help of humanitarian aid workers. Near the border, another group of 5 North Korean women joined us. The group of us, now 11, crossed the border and arrived on the Laotian side remaining on the hillside for 30 hours in pouring rain and without food and water until rescued by another humanitarian aid worker. Please help me reach South Korea. I want to take training to be a cook once I arrive there.

Name: Ahn Hi
Year of Birth: 1978
Gender: Female
Hometown: Riwon, South Hamkyong Province, North Korea

My parents were clerks at the same company of business in North Korea. My father died in 1996 due to complications arising from a lack of medical care. My mother was still alive when I defected to China in 1999. I do not know whether she is still alive or not. I have two brothers in North Korea.

I remained unemployed in North Korea since my graduation of middle high school 1994. The extremely impoverished conditions in my native country forced me defect to China and seek a better life there. Such an action of escaping famine is one that is punishable in North Korea. I could not and cannot believe that exercising my free choice to live instead of dying could be a crime. I worked at a Chinese restaurant for one full year without money payment, only in exchange for the promise of accommodation and protection from arrest by the restaurant owner. Yet, I knew full well that such a promise had only limited worth. The constant fear of arrest finally pushed me to the typical decision of North Korean women in China of submitting to a "marriage" to a Chinese farmer in 2000. This fateful decision also did not offer me true freedom from the haunting fear of arrest by Chinese police and I became absolutely determined to be rid of such a yoke of anxiety. I have a five year-old boy from this marriage.

In late July this year, I decided to join a group of North Korean women headed for South Korea. We arrived in Laos in August, 2006, and found ourselves unable to proceed for weeks while in Laos. Once finished with this long and dangerous journey, I hope to apply for training to be a cook in South Korea.