A 21-year-old woman, who this month became one of the first six North Koreans granted U.S. asylum, has said she was sold repeatedly into marriage in China and jailed in North Korea before successfully seeking refuge in a U.S. embassy in Asia.
Chanmi is a pseudonym given to her by Rev. Chun Ki-Won, a South Korean national who helps North Koreans to escape their native country.
“I’ve been to Korean supermarkets here [in the United States], and I was surprised to find so many kinds of goods. … Wherever I go here, I’m treated to lots of good food, which makes me think about my mom in North Korea as well as our defectors in China.”
Chanmi said she first fled North Korea in September 2001, crossing the Chinese border to visit relatives and obtain food. Chinese police apprehended her and returned her to North Korea, where she spent 40 days in jail.
“I was freed in December 2002 and fled to China again, but this time I was sold off by Korean-Chinese brokers several times to Chinese men. I was sold at the price of 20,000 yuan,” she said. “So many North Korean women are sold like this in so many areas in China.”
In February 2004, “the third eldest of my brothers came to save me. He and I were caught by Chinese. After a trial in North Korea, my brother was confined to a political prison with no hope of being freed, and I was sentenced to three years. After serving 19 months in prison, I was freed, with my body bruised due to kicking and beating by prison guards.”
“While in prison, I witnessed some harrowing scenes. I saw three to five bodies being carried outside prisons every day, and the guards buried them with shovels under ground, breaking their necks and joints first. They died of hunger and malnutrition, I thought.”
“I came to know about God and Bible through my eldest brother who traveled a lot to China. Until then, I was so scared even to hear about ‘God.’ In North Korea, even uttering one word about God will send you to prison.”
[Radio Free Asia]