Suji’s Letter to Her Father

Choi Yong-hun with his two daughters

From the Daughter of a Jailed Humanitarian

Hi, I am Suji, the eldest daughter of Choi Yong-hun.

On the first of November 2002, our family of four moved to China, where my younger sister and I began settling in to our new life there. We started school in January 2003. But just two months after our move to China, our father was arrested by the Chinese police for attempting to help some North Korean refugees. I had trouble believing he had been arrested since the media were reporting that he had been helping a group of refugees from North Korea.

As soon as he was arrested, we started receiving dozens of telephone calls every day, most of them threatening us. This was so frightening that we abandoned everything and returned to South Korea. Maybe nobody can really understand just how much we suffered when our father was taken away from us in a foreign country.

Back in our own country, we were disheartened to find that we had no house to live in and were mostly unwelcome. We had no choice but to stay at our uncle’s house. My mother constantly works day and night to make a living. She works hard, trying to scrape together enough extra for airfare to China where she can visit our father in jail, but everyday living expenses always take everything she earns.

Our grandmother developed a serious heart problem following the news that our father was jailed in China. My mother stayed at the hospital during my grandmother’s heart surgery.

Although I constantly worried about my mother, I could not control my urge to escape from all the hardship. I actually ran away from home once. My mother, however, was patient and never stopped loving me. Thanks to her love, I was finally able to accept the reality of what has happened and to begin coping with it. I am now in the second year of high school, and have learned to understand and love people who are suffering.

It is still extremely painful, however, to see my mother working so hard to earn enough to make up for our missing father. For both of us girls and for our father, she works several jobs, including an open-air market at night, a fish market in the early morning, and a sewing factory all day.

In the 3 years and 9 months since my father was arrested and jailed, his health has gotten worse in the Chinese prison. It has been nearly four years, and in that time I have only been able to go visit him twice. My father desperately wants to see me and my younger sister. I wish we could afford to go see him every month and take him the medicines and necessities he needs. I really do wish somebody could help.

I never stop hoping that father will come back to us soon. I looked at our family album again today. The last photo of my father with me and my younger sister shows me still in junior high and my sister still small.

I would so much like to take a picture of our whole family together, my father, my mother, my younger sister and me. We girls have grown so much bigger now. I could put the picture beside our TV and look at it all the time.

Please help us keep hoping.

Thank you.
Choi Suji