Human Trafficking Victim – Lee Sun Ja

Name:                 Lee Sun Ja
(Female, Name changed for safety)
Date of Birth:  1981
Hometown:      Hamgyong Bukto, North Korea

When I was three years old, my parents suddenly disappeared. Nobody knows if they died or if they were sent into a concentration camp for political prisoners. My step-parents treated me worse than a beast. I was hardly fed daily, so I grew up as a beggar. Since I remained a Kot-jebi (street child) until I escaped into China, I never had a chance to go to a school. In North Korea, while I was living the Kot-jebi life, I begged but I also broke into houses to steal from time to time.

In March 2000, at age 19, I escaped into China to survive, because I heard that I could get enough food to fill my stomach and also make some money, too. I worked in a village in Yanbien, China. I was paid 300 RMB. However, I could not stay there long, since the Chinese police frequently came to hunt North Korean defectors in hiding. So, as soon as I saved enough money, I moved to Shandong Province where I worked at a Korean restaurant. At first, I lied that I was a Korean Chinese, but later I honestly confessed that I was a North Korean. For this, I was fired.

I was once arrested and repatriated to North Korea in 2002. It was 2 weeks after I had lymphatic gland surgery when they sent me back to North Korea. After going through Onsong detention center, I was sentenced to 6 months in a labor camp. I was not yet healed following the surgery, and the labor camp was unsanitary. Because of that and the widespread malnourishment in the labor camp, the incision from my surgery became infected. The inflammation caused my ears, jaw and neck to swell, making it difficult to eat or drink. It was useless, however, to expect medical treatment at the detention center. Instead, they forced me to work even harder. They regarded me as a criminal because I had escaped from the country.

The lack of medical treatment has left me an ugly scar. Furthermore, on my neck is a swollen, egg-sized lump. This lump has burst open four times in the past.

In addition, sleeping in that cold place, combined with the malnourishment at the detention center, has caused a bladder problem as well. Urinating hurts badly, and I cannot fully empty my bladder.

I decided to try and reach South Korea, since staying in China is so difficult with no legal status. My lack of legal status makes it impossible to get proper medical treatment. I would so much like to go to a real doctor so that I can receive proper treatment. Please help me.