With the aid of American Christians, North Koreans are risking their lives to reach freedom. The inside tale of one escape.
On a winter's day in late 1998, Kim Myong Suk, 20, lay shivering and weak from hunger on the cold concrete floor of a cell in a prison camp in North Korea, not far from the Chinese border. She was five months pregnant, and about to lose her unborn child.
In February 1998, Kim had fled from North Korea into China. Her welcome was hardly comfortable. She was immediately "sold off" into marriage by one of the criminal gangs in the northeast of China that prey upon refugees. China's one-child policy, and the intense cultural preference for sons rather than daughters, has left the country with a huge number of single men. Kim's "husband,'' she says, was a Chinese peasant from a small town in Heilongjiang province. At first they didn't have much of a relationship, but over time, Kim's mother says, she grew to have affection for him. "He turned out to be a simple, kind man," says her mother. When Kim got pregnant, her mother explains, "she decided she wanted to have the baby."
In October 1998, however, Chinese police conducted one of their periodic raids in search of refugees from the North. Kim tried to hide, but two policemen discovered her. She was arrested and sent back across the Tumen River to North Korea, where she was sentenced to three years in a labor camp. Food, she says, was scarce: "We were so hungry in the camps that we used to pick up and eat the remains of apples that the guards had thrown away." After a year and a half, Kim says, she was released under a special amnesty decree.
[Excerpted from a TIME magazine article, “Running Out of the Darkness”]