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Transcript of Interviews
Three Surivivors Speak

How China Repatriates NK Refugees
Presented at the Tokyo press conference on Oct. 8, 2003

We interviewed several of the North Koreans from the boat-people incident who were arrested in Yantai, China and repatriated to North Korea in January of this year. When they managed to escape again, we helped them reach a safe place via Southeast Asia from China.

During the escape trip, we videotaped our interview with them on July 15 through July 20. We have a total of four videotapes, and the following is an excerpt from the fourth tape.

Brief Background of the interviewees in the 4th videotape

Yang Yong Ho: Born on March 30, 1961. After graduating from a boy’s high school in Musan, North Hangyon Province in 1972, worked at a mining site, construction sites, etc. until 1990. His wife and a niece died from starvation. Fled with his daughter to China in December 2002.

Yang Gum Soon: Born on December 2, 1987. The daughter of Yang Yong Ho.

Kim Young Kwang: Born on February 24, 1983. Had to leave junior high school midway through, and entered Johnson School (orphanage) because of the hardships his family was going through. In mid-December 1998, the whole family escaped into China to flee from starvation.

0606 Q:

What is your father’s name?


His name is Yang Yong Ho.

0609 Q:


What is your own name?

My name is Yang Gum Soon.

0614 Q:


Did you see the granny?


0756 Q:


Who else was with granny Kim Un Kum?

I was forced aboard a boat with Granny. In the boat compartment, I found Pee Okk Ju and Granny, and two more women next to them. There were also one man with a camera and two executives sitting. Also, two people escorting us were sitting there.

0834 A: At that time, Granny was sitting beside me and had a headache, so I took some medicine from my bag and offered it to her, but she refused to take it. She would not eat an apple or bread that was offered to her. She must have been famished.

0858 Q:


Did you offer the apple to Granny?


0902 Q:


She wouldn’t eat the apple you offered?

No. The apple was offered by a Chinese interpreter who spoke the Korean language.

0920 Q:


Was Granny sent back to North Korea with you?

Yes, she was. When she and we arrived at Dandong together, Granny was also forced to take off her pants for the inspection.

0929 Q:


Granny was also stripped?

Yes, she was completely stripped.

0936 A: Granny went into the inspection room with Pee Okk Ju. I was the last. They suspected Granny had a watch, bobby pins and money, so she was stripped for inspection.

0952 Q:


Did Granny have money?

Yes, she did. When we were handed over in Sinuiju where we were inspected, Granny was sitting behind me. I saw Granny sneak some cash, 20RMB or so, into the sole of a shoe of Park Ran Hee who had already been through the inspection.

1039 Q:


Were you dressed when you were handed from Dandong over to Sinuiju?

Yes, we were.

1045 Q:


Were you cuffed?

Yes, we were cuffed.

1118 Q:


What happened to Granny?

Granny was lying to the inspector. Pee Okk Ju’s mother and Granny had four family members arrested together, but they told the inspector different stories, which made the inspector angry.

1148 A: I was in the same room with Pee Okk Ju’s mother. She worried about Granny, who seemed to be senile due to her age.

1206 Q:


Where did you last see Granny?

I was with Pee Okk Ju’s mother, but later I was put in the room where Granny was. Granny was sitting in a warm place near the ondol stove.

1226 A: Granny had no teeth and could not even eat half of that small corn, so she gave it to somebody else.

1239 Q:


She could hardly eat because she did not have teeth, and gave the leftover food to another person?

Yes, she did.

1246 Q:


So she hardly ate?

Yes, she hardly ate anything.

1249 Q:


Then, where were you separated from Granny?

That was a few days later, Thursday or Friday, in Sinuiju.

1301 Q:


How many days were you detained in Sinuiju?

Granny was detained for about 10 or maybe 15 days.

1313 Q:


Do you know where Granny was sent?

The last I heard from her was when she came to me and said she was leaving. She said something like she would be sent back to the district where her home was. I think she said the district was Onsong.

1342 Q:


(showing a picture) Do you remember this lady?

Yes, I do.

1348 Q:


What’s her name?

Her name is Ko Chong Mi.

1351 Q:


Was Ko Chong Mi also sent back to North Korea with you?

I guess it was about the 5th day after we were put in the detention center in Yantai. That was the last day when we were moved out of the Yantai, she joined us.

1452 Q:


Were you with her when you were sent to Sinuiju?

Yes, we were sent together to Sinuiju. This lady swallowed her ring, and later she caught her excrement in her hand in an attempt to retrieve it. What I saw was a chopstick about this size. Her ring may have come out later, I think.

1517 Q:


When was it?

Well, I think it was around the middle of February.

1619 A: I was with her while I was detained in Sinuiju. After about one month, only I was moved out when an escort from Musan came for me. The lady was still there when I left.

2456 Q:


Did all of you ever insist that you were refugees?

Where? (Kim Young Kwang)

2504 Q:


In China.

Yes, I did. I told them that I was a refugee, and asked if I would be sent back to North Korea... (Yang Yong Ho)

2512 A: When we were forced aboard the boat and escorted, we cried and begged them not to send us back, saying that we would be killed if we were repatriated. This, however, did not work. (Kim Young Kwang)

2528 A: When we pleaded with them not to send us back, because we would be killed there, they told us they would never send us back to North Korea. (Yang Yong Ho)

2532 A: They told us that they would not hand North Korea the statements we were forced to sign, and that we did not have to worry because they would just transfer custody. (Yang Yong Ho)

2537 A: We kept repeating the Chinese word we knew, “Wo Sula, Wo Sula.” But, they said “You’ll be OK.”(Yang Yong Ho)

2545 Q:


Does the word “Sula” mean “OK”?

No, it means “They will kill me.”

2549 A: I said it in Chinese (Yang Yong Ho)

2555 Q:


What does that Chinese phrase mean?

It meant that I would be killed if I were sent back to North Korea. I even added another Chinese word meaning shooting death. I told them I would be executed by shooting.

2610 A: Before I was put on a boat bound for Dalian, that is, when I was still in the Yantai prison No. 2, Mr. Choi Yong-hun told us that international law is involved in the incident, so that we would stay alive even in the Yantai prison, and also encouraged us to hold onto hope. (Yang Yong Ho)

2629 A: So, I actually believed that I would be released because I was a refugee, until I saw the boat bearing a sign saying “bound for Dalian.” When I saw the “Dalian” sign, I had a bad feeling that I would be handed over to Dandong as soon as we arrived Dalian. And sure enough, they did hand us over to Dandong from Dalian. (Yang Yong Ho)

2801 Q: How do you feel about China telling you that they would not send you back, when they actually did send you back?

2818 A: I developed hatred and hostility toward China. (Yang Yong Ho)

2849 A: And there is awful abuse of human rights in China. They are very backward when it comes to human rights.

3250 Q:



How would people look at you in North Korea?

Us? There’s no doubt they will look at us as traitors. We had tried to escape to the rival country, South Korea.

I did not know anything about the criminal laws of my own country, but they showed me the book containing the laws. (Kim Young Kwang)

3322 A: A person who crosses the border will be imprisoned for 3, 5, 10, 15 or 20 years, or possibly even receive the death penalty. A person who attempts to go to a rival country, like America, could be executed by shooting, or receive a 15- or 20-year sentence. They showed me the pages specifying the punishment during the interrogation. I honestly felt I would be killed. It’s really a miracle to me that I’m still alive.

3358 Q:


You all escaped into China just to survive, but once you left your country, then you automatically became traitors. So, if you go back to North Korea, your lives are in jeopardy under the charge of treason. Is that correct?

Yes, that’s correct. (Kim Young Kwang)

3422 Q


China knows it, but they still ...

They send them back, knowing it. (Kim Young Kwang)

3425 Q:


So, they sent you back, didn’t they?

Yes, they did. (Kim Young Kwang)

3427 A: What I heard while I was in China, they would thread a wire through the mouths or noses of North Koreans arrested in China when they were repatriated. China knows it, and they still keep on sending the defectors back. (Yang Yong Ho)

3452 A: China officially says that they respect human rights, but what they are actually doing ... (Kim Young Kwang)

3502 A: I was detained in Sinuiju for a month, then two and a half or three months at the next detention center. They replace most prisoners at intervals of 10 to 15 days. I was called “a fixed asset,” while those who go out soon are called “pistols.” (Kim Young Kwang)

3534 A: Among them, there was a North Korean imprisoned with his arm broken. He was hit by a Chinese border guard with an electric club, and was sent back to Musan, North Korea, with the broken arm. (Kim Young Kwang)

3544 Q:



You mean he received no opportunity for medical treatment? There was no other way but just suffering continually from the pain?

Yes, he just had to keep on suffering. (Kim Young Kwang)

Exactly. No medical treatment. (Yang Yong Ho)

3546 A:


Absolutely no way to get medical treatment in a hospital. (Kim Young Kwang)

They don’t get even medicine. (Yang Yong Ho)

3552 A: Even with his broken arm, he was desperately trying to observe the rules at the prison in Musan. I saw a prison guard hitting his head, saying “You idiot!.” He was bleeding on his head. And he could hardly eat. (Kim Young Kwang)

3609 A: While I was detained at the prison in Musan, I heard from another North Korean defector that he was shot by a Chinese border guard. These days, they shoot the North Koreans with guns, according to what I heard. I also heard that the dead bodies after being shot are handed over to North Korea. (Kim Young Kwang)

3621 A: China’s crackdown on the North Korean refugees is becoming more severe. (Kim Young Kwang)

3632 Q: Currently, China is telling the international society that they are handling the North Korean refugees with respect for human rights according to international law. How do you feel about this?





That’s only their official face. (Kim Young Kwang)

They are lying. (Yang Yong Ho)

What China is actually doing is contrary to what they officially say. (Kim Young Kwang and Yang Yong Ho)

3700 A: We must fight. (Yang Yong Ho)

3703 A: I don’t know how to say it, since I’m not very good with words or expression, but China has two faces. China is still sending North Koreans back. (Kim Young Kwang)

3715 Q:

So, do you think the crackdown in China is getting worse?

Yes, the crackdown is getting more severe. In particular, the crackdown in the border area has worsened incredibly. Earlier, it was relatively easy to cross the border to reach Yanbian and then return. (Kim Young Kwang)

3731 A: These days, the North Korean refugees hiding in Yanbian are running away toward inner China, such as Inner Mongolia. Some head toward Qingdao or Weihai where there are a lot of South Korean businesses. Anyway, they cannot hide in Yanbian anymore. To survive, they have to run away from Yanbian where they are sure to be arrested. (Kim Young Kwang)

3802 Q:




So, it is that hard to stay in hiding in China?

Absolutely. Yes. (Yang Yong Ho and Kim Young Kwang)

It’s now very hard to survive even in China. (Kim Young Kwang)

When I recall, they used a lot of violence on me.


That’s terrible; I appreciate your agreeing to do this interview.