Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Kim Myong Suk’s China Refugee Story

Kim went to live in Onsong, a town near the border with China, and quickly decided that she would try to flee again. Her mother and an older sister had followed her out of North Korea, and they were now living in Heilongjiang. Occasionally Kim's mother sent a Chinese courier back into North Korea with some money and messages. Kim gave one of the couriers a note telling her mother she would try to escape again. "My motivation was hunger, and also there is no freedom in North Korea," she says. "It is a closed society. Even though we were out of the [labor] camp, we felt like we were locked up in that country. I wanted to find a way to get out again."

So on a bitterly cold night in early March 2002, she went for it. "My head and my heart were pounding," Kim remembers. If caught—either in the attempt or in China—Kim would have received, at the least, a long prison sentence, and could quite possibly have been executed. At 2 a.m., with no guards in sight and clutching just one small bag with a change of clothes in it, she hustled across the frozen Tumen River, and into China for the second time.

Kim says she had no thoughts then of going beyond China, no thoughts of making it to Seoul. She hooked up with her mother and older sister again in the city of Mudanjiang, and after a while met an ethnic Korean-Chinese who worked as a translator. The two married in early 2003.

[Excerpted from TIME magazine article, “Running Out of the Darkness”]

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