On July 12, while I was working as usual at the sewing
factory, the needle on my sewing machine suddenly broke and a
chip from it flew into my eye. It hurt so bad that I couldn’t
even stand. I squatted, almost suffocating from the pain. I couldn’t
bear to open my eyes.
I prayed fervently, “God, if I can no longer work
here, what will happen to my two daughters and my husband jailed
in China? Please help us. If I fall apart right now, what will
my family do? God, please help me.”
seconds, the needle chip came out onto the tissue paper
I was using to cover my eye. The pain suddenly went away and I
opened my eye. I felt God’s invisible hands helping me,
and I cried tears of gratitude.
prayed for the release of my husband, the important,
irreplaceable father of my two daughters. It has been one year
and seven months since my husband was imprisoned in China.
people, now living in peace, that year and seven months
may seem like a very short time. For us, as we live without the
breadwinner of our family, it feels like an endless dark tunnel.
months before my husband was captured by the Chinese
police, I moved to Yantai, Shandong Province in China with our
two daughters. This was where my husband was working. We planned
to stay in China for a long time, so we sold our house and household
goods in South Korea.
as my husband was arrested in China, all our Chinese
friends and the people who had worked closely with him disappeared.
I trusted one Chinese man who firmly promised to get my husband
out of the jail. I handed him all the money I had, never doubting.
I never saw this man again.
lost, but had to concentrate on escaping with my daughters
from the Chinese authorities. At this time, Rev. Choi, one of
my husband’s acquaintances, helped us get back to South
Korea. What we found back in my homeland was a penniless life.
Our two daughters, Suji and Son-hee, and I had no choice but to
move from relative to relative for the next two months, and we
could not live together at one place. Suji and Son-hee, of course,
had a hard time adapting to the sudden drastic change in their
life. They cried every night. Through all of this, the letters
and support received through the Japanese NGO, Life Funds for
North Korean Refugees, have helped us to hang on.
19 this year, the South Korean photo journalist, Mr.
Seok Jae-hyun, who had been arrested with my husband and detained
in the same prison, was released. I was hoping to see my husband
also be released at the same time and the two of them returning
together to Seoul. My hopes were crushed when only the photo journalist
think about my husband in that Chinese prison, I want
to fly to him and cheer him up, but I must put the priority on
working hard and earning a living to support our daughters and
to send him money in prison.
10 this year, the money I saved enabled me and our younger
daughter, Son-hee to go visit my husband. At the prison, my husband
held Son-hee in his arms from the start of our visit to the very
last moment. I felt that being with us gave him hope and the motivation
to survive despite his poor health. We want him back as soon as
possible; that’s the only one thing we wish for.
had already been suffering from chronic diabetes, hypertension
and asthma, but in prison his health is deteriorating further.
He really needs medical treatment before it is too late. Please
help him. Nobody else can replace him as father of our daughters.
His parents’ health has also suffered because of their son’s
difficulties. His mother had to undergo heart surgery soon after
he was arrested. His father tells me that whenever he tries to
eat, he can only think about his son incarcerated in prison in
China, and he has no appetite because of the grief. The prolonged
detention of my husband is torturing his aged parents.
the things my husband most urgently needs is prescription
medicines. The prison officials seem finally to have recognized
the seriousness of his health problems, and they at last allowed
me to hand my husband the prescriptions I brought for him on our
May 10th visit. To hand him the medicines he needs, I really should
visit him once a month, but that is almost impossible for me to
do in my present situation.
that the prisoners in China must pay for all their expenses,
including their own clothing and food, so that life in prison
becomes much harder if they get no cash or supplies from outside.
My husband has been handing most of the cash and supplies he receives
from me to Mr. Park Yong Chol, the North Korean refugee who was
arrested together with my husband and detained with him.
discovered that the way the prison officers treat each
prisoner depends upon the financial status of the prisoner or
his supporters. This includes how often cash and goods are sent
to the prisoner and who comes to visit him. These factors clearly
cause the prison officers to change their language and attitude
toward each prisoner.
workers detained in Chinese prisons are relatively wealthy
or if they have something to attract media attention, then they
may even have the opportunity to win early release. If an aid
worker is not rich or has nothing to attract media interest, like
my husband, then he can easily receive the harshest treatment.
He fights the agony of despair every day.
experienced the fear of being forgotten and have been
betrayed by persons I trusted. At times I felt like disappearing
from this world. But when I saw the videotape my husband took,
I decided to hang on. In the video, North Korean people talked
about their unbelievably wretched lives, and I saw how my husband
dedicated himself to rescuing these suffering people.
been telling my daughters that their father is in prison
not because he did anything wrong, but that he was courageous
enough to do the right thing. On the other hand, there is this
reality: our life without him has forced us into severe financial
hardship. In addition to serving five years in prison, he must
pay a 30,000 RMB fine. (This is about US$4,090).
all of you here today. I know you’re all very concerned
about the plight of North Korean refugees.
still in prison, has repeatedly told me that he will
continue to dedicate his life to the rescue of North Korean refugees
after he is released. I ask you to help get him out of prison
before his health deteriorates even further. Please help me go
visit him once every month so that I can hand him the medicines
please do not forget about Mr. Park Yong Chol, who is
expected to be released next year. He is very fearful of his release
because it means he will be immediately repatriated to North Korea.
has been asking for every possible assistance to protect
Mr. Park from being sent back to North Korea. I ask you also to
send Mr. Park letters of encouragement and support.
Kim Bong Soon (Choi Yong-hun’s wife)