Friday, May 26, 2006

"Rice is a luxury in North Korea"

Choi, 24, who stands about 5 feet 7, is taller than the other [North Korean refugees, recently arrived in the U.S.] perhaps because her father, a Communist Party official, had a higher standard of living than most North Koreans. But after Choi's father was sent to prison for five years, the family was ostracized and Choi was banished from school.

She paid a broker to help her escape to China in 2004, but the agent instead sold her to a married man who confined her to a small room and raped her repeatedly for two years.

Omi's family was slowly starving when she fled to China. A man she hoped would help her instead sold her as a bride to a Chinese man, whose family treated her like a slave. She was eventually deported and spent time in a North Korean prison before once again crossing into China.

Like many defectors, new U.S. arrival Young Chul "Joseph" Shin, 32, the brother of fellow refugee Chan Mi Shin, went to China in 1997, during the famine, seeking food for his family.

He recalled his astonishment upon seeing the abundance of food even in the rural areas just across the river from North Korea. Dogs were being given rice porridge to eat, he recalls, "big bowls of it." Rice is a luxury in North Korea, he said, eaten only on one's birthday and New Year's.

[Excerpt of an article by Valerie Reitman, L.A. Times]

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