It is an unending nightmare. I don’t know how to begin
telling everything that has happed to me. It will probably sound
like fiction to you.
When I was two years old, following the death of my father,
I was taken in by four aunts and an uncle. My cousins were like
my parents, sisters and brother.
During the “march of hardships” period (1995 to
1998), the terrible conditions were like living in a war zone.
This led me feel that I could not keep on depending on my relatives.
It was during that period that I encountered individuals who
were helping people nearly dead in the streets, taking them to
China. They appealed to me as though they are true humanitarians,
so I decided to follow one of them, and I was taken to China.
At that time, I was pregnant.
One day, the man who brought me to China sold
me for 3,000 RMB (about US $400), and that was the last I saw
That is when my nightmare life as a fugitive began. The place
I stayed after being sold the first time was Shulan, in Jilin
Province. After about a month, I ran away, walking miles and
miles through the mountains. I begged for money at stations until
I had enough to return to Yanji. However, there was no place
I could go. As long as I remained in China, I was still in danger
of becoming a victim of human trafficking again. Eventually that's
what happened to me.
The place where I stayed after I was sold the second time was
Huludao, in Liaoning Province. There, I found only Han people,
all of whom speak a language that I do not understand. I repeatedly
experienced sexual abuse and violence, facing all kinds of unbearable
insults and humiliation. I suffered dreadfully. After about three
months, I managed to escape from there. Since I didn't understand
the language, I pretended to be a deaf-mute in buses and trains
until I finally made it back to Yanji, where there are many Korean-Chinese
who speak my language.
Once I finally made it back to Yanji, I knew I had to find a
place where I could have my baby. Since I could not have the
baby on the street, I had no choice but to allow myself to be
sold a third time, somewhere in Tianjin.
The room was on the fifth floor of an apartment building. From
the first, I was confined in a room that was locked from the
outside with no way to unlock it from the inside.
After a few days, a Chinese man came in and said something to
me in his language, which I did not understand. Then he tried
to force me into a humiliating sexual act, and I resisted. The
man turned into a beast, becoming extremely violent. He even
kicked my nine-months-pregnant belly. Eventually he raped me.
Having no legal status in China, I could not report the man’s
violence to the Chinese police. I was also painfully aware that
if I ran away and was caught by the police, then I would end
up being repatriated, which would be the worst thing possible.
However, I was reaching a limit. I could not face a life of endless
Although I knew that I might die, I decided to jump from the
fifth floor window and try to run away. I did not die, but unfortunately
neither could I run away. I landed in a large pile of trash and
plate materials, which cushioned my fall. I survived, but with
a fractured leg and broken ribs. People gathered around me staring.
After a while, a car came and I was carried to a police station
in Tianjin. I was kept in a hospital near the police station.
To my surprise, the baby survived. The next day, I delivered
the baby at the hospital, about 20 days prematurely. During my
15 days at the hospital, I learned that I would be sent back
to North Korea. I begged the section chief of the Foreign Affairs
Division of Tianjin City to send me back to Yanji, but he cursed
me with awful words.
I was sent to Dandong with a plaster cast on my leg and with
my new-born baby, who was not even one month old. Then we were
transferred into Shinuiju detention center. My broken leg was
almost healed by then, but it grew shorter than the other leg,
and to this day it still feels awkward.
While staying at the hospital, I was in the same room with a
Chinese patient, and she and her family had given me clothes
and 200RMB in cash. This cash money helped me survive the three
months in the detention center. Conditions in that center were
so traumatic that a few of the women in our cell died from illnesses
brought on by malnutrition.
It was even worse in the cell facing us. Men were confined there,
and on some days as many as six men would die.
By the time I was released from the detention center, it was
already winter, and I realized that my baby and I did not have
enough clothing. The severe North Korean winter added to our
hardships, and my baby suffered especially severely. I decided
it would be impossible for us to survive the winter in North
Korea. After dark, I placed my baby on my back and crossed the
frozen river separating us from China. That got me to xxx. I
found it impossible to continue walking in the dark, so I stopped
at a house and knocked on the door. The family living at the
house was kind enough to allow us to stay overnight then in the
morning gave me enough money to go to Yanji.
In Yanji, one of the family’s relatives took pity on my
baby and gave me 150 RMB. The next day, I went to a village in
xxx and found a house which that relative had suggested I visit.
This was my first time to visit this place without being sold.
At the house, I found an old mother and an elderly son living
together. They accepted me and my child, so we stayed with them
for three years. While I lived with them, in response to their
request, I bore a son by the man.
However, the man was eventually arrested for burglarizing a
factory and sent to prison. Later, I learned that the man was
an ex-convict and had been convicted previously of burglary and
I was unable to raise two children by myself, so I adopted out
my eldest son to a family living in Shandong Province, then left
my second son with the man’s mother. In the fall of 2006,
I went back to Yanji to earn money.
It broke my heart, as a mother, to give up my 7-year old boy,
who had miraculously survived my five-story jump. I was incapable,
however, of giving him the chance to gain a proper education.
Once I returned to Yanji, I met a man who introduced himself
as a Korean minister. He told me that he would take me to South
Korea if I would sign a legal-looking paper. There are people
like him who persuade North Korean female defectors to go to
South Korea with them, but who actually sexually use and abuse
the women, cheat them and try to sell them.
I had already experienced such frauds, so I knew to reject the
offers. Instead, I found a job washing dishes at a restaurant.
The chef at the restaurant is now my husband. He continued to
help me even after he learned about my background, and he even
suggested we exchange living quarters to help me avoid the danger
of police crackdowns. We ended up living in xxx.
Eventually, however, we ran into financial difficulties and
heavy debt, so my husband decided to work away from home. He
went to South Korea. Right now, I have nowhere I can go. Recently,
the Chinese police have also begun cracking down harder on North
Korean defectors here in xxx. I want to get out of this miserable
life with no nationality and no hope. Please, I can only beg
for your help.
Choi Chong-mi (Name changed to protect her safety)