By Hwang Miryon, 19
Former Chongjin University student
(Name changed to protect her safety)
My family was relatively well-off even in Chongjin, but in August
2005 we were suddenly struck by misfortune, something we could
never have imagined.
It all started when a family with whom we were friends was arrested
on charges of watching a foreign film. An acquaintance of the
wife was arrested by the "109 Brigade" and before we
knew it they had come for us as well.
The Tactics of "109 Brigade"
Watching foreign films, including South Korean films, is forbidden
in North Korea. Because there are many people in Chongjin who
watch foreign films, the 109 Brigade (a collaboration between
the Party, government, justice system, and police) was formed
to stamp it out, and began to occupy the city of Chongjin. In
the end, my family was publicly tried then banished to Bon Kan
Orchard, in Oran county. The local people were wary of my family.
When we left our home, no one even came to say good-bye.
Banished to Oran County
Everyone living in Bon Kan in Oran had been banished there.
The life my family and I lived there was worse than that of brute
beasts, but we were occasionally able to get into the city. As
our situation grew increasingly worse, we were forced to sell
our possessions bit by bit in order to get by. I began wondering
if there were any other options regarding where I could live,
and started to suspect I would be better off in South Korea—a
free country. I resolved to go to South Korea, and on October
30 2006, I escaped from North Korea with my mother.
Walking into the Human-Trafficking Trap
On the evening of October 30 2006, after crossing the Tumen
river, we met up with a short man who told us he could get us
work if we went with him. So we walked with him through the mountains
for hours before finally coming upon something like a cellar
in the bowels of the mountain. He showed us in, and began to
drink and talk in a sexually explicit way. My mother and I could
not sleep a wink. Around two o'clock the following afternoon,
a taxi came for us from Yanji. We had been sold for 2000 RMB
each. We had fallen into the human-trafficking trap, but until
that moment, we had no idea that we had been sold.
We found out upon reaching an apartment in Yanji that we had
been sold. Besides us, there were three other women from North
Korea in that house. Two of them were involved in showing various
parts of their bodies on an adult website. It was such a shameful
According to what they said, the site was run by South Koreans
and ethnic Koreans from China. I only discovered later that it
was a sex-chat site. The man who brought us there ordered us
to do whatever the online client told us to do. He threatened
to "marry" us off to an old or handicapped man from
a farming village if we didn't do as he said. The ethnic Korean
Chinese boss told us that showing our bodies like this on the
Internet was surely far preferable to suffering as "brides" or
being used as sexual playthings by men we didn't even know. In
addition, he told us that if we did this work for two years,
he would send us to South Korea.
I didn't know what to think, but before I knew it I was working
on this adult site.
From Adult Site Worker to Sexual Plaything
After some time, the boss called me in and ordered me to sleep
with him that night. When I refused, he beat me and eventually
succeeded in raping me. With that, I was not only working on
the adult site, but had become a sexual plaything for men. On
reflection, I felt that marriage would have been better.
The next day, the boss asked me if I was going to continue working
on the website. When I said I wasn't, he immediately lost his
temper with me and started beating me. My mother intervened and
tearfully pleaded with him to let me work on the adult site.
In the end he relented and I went back to working on the adult
My Mother Was Sold to a Mentally-Disabled Man
The time finally came when my mother and I were separated from
each other. My mother, being older, was sold to a mentally-disabled
man living in a village in Shandong Province.
While working on the adult site, I got to know a South Korean
man and for a month or so was able to talk with him. After getting
to know him a little better, I confided to him that I was from
North Korea, and asked him to help me. On the Internet, he looked
up a human-rights group that assists North Korean defectors,
and asked Mr. Kim, a missionary, to help me.
I Was Sold for 20 000 RMB ($3400)
Captive that I was, I agonized over how to escape from the adult
site. I knew that in order to make my escape, I had to be on
the boss's good side, so I did whatever he told me to do. I requested
to be sold somewhere near where my mother was living; I begged
the boss to help me, as I wanted to see my mother again. Finally
he sold me for 20 000 RMB into a village near where my mother
Unscrupulous "Merchants" Selling Their Own
My ethnic-Korean boss was living with a female defector from
North Korea. She handled the female defectors sent her way by
the boss, and played a leading part in trafficking them. Even
though she was Korean, like us, and living in grinding poverty,
like us, she was willing to sell us like cattle just to turn
a profit. She was the one who bought my mother for 8000 RMB from
Yanji and resold her to a Chinese man for 20 000 RMB. For as
long as I live, I'll never forget that woman, that unscrupulous
merchant selling her own countrymen.
Just to be able to live with my mother, I become the sexual
plaything of my brute of a boss.
Naturally, I was also sold into marriage for 20 000 RMB by that
woman. The family I was sold into, suspecting I might try to
escape, locked the door so that there was no way out.
I Saw My Chance and Ran for It
I ended up living with a handicapped man. But I saw my chance
to escape and managed to meet up with my mother, then we escaped
together. Now I am living in hiding in City X, waiting for help.
I am asking you, please, please, help my mother and me.
Life Funds for North Korean Refugees is now
drawing up plans to bring this mother and daughter to safety
via a third country,
so will cost around 15 000 RMB ($2300) each for travel expenses.
Please help Life Funds in the urgent task of bringing these
two women to safety. Click here to aid
them in their quest
to reach safety. We will gratefully accept any amount, and we
you in advance for caring about their fate.