Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kim Myong Suk’s Refugee Story

Something in Kim's family's environment, however, had changed. When she was sent back to North Korea the first time, her mother had begun attending a church for ethnic Koreans. "I started to pray for her all the time there," she says. But in February 2004, Chinese police raided the church, shutting it down and arresting 12 North Korean refugees.

Kim's mother said that she no longer wanted to live in fear, and told her daughters that she planned to leave China. She said a friend from the church had introduced her to a 'people broker' who would help get them out of China. Her older daughter, who spoke Chinese, had married an ethnic Korean Chinese whose brother-in-law was a police officer. He got fake identity cards for the two women. They then paid the broker 2,000 yuan ($250), and one week later, the two crossed into Vietnam, later arriving in Cambodia, from where the South Korean government flew them on to Seoul.

Kim, having just married, did not want to follow. "I was frightened by what had happened to me the first time I was sent back to North Korea," she says. "I didn't want to try to get out and risk getting caught."

Her mother reluctantly agreed, fearing that Kim would be killed if she were caught. For the next year, Kim lived a quiet life with her husband. But the fear of arrest gnawed at her. Her Chinese was not fluent, and in 2005 the crackdown on refugees intensified. Because of her forced abortion, she could not have children. Her husband was bitterly disappointed by that, says Kim's mother, who was determined to do what she could to help.

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

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