During the 7 days of hidingin the mountains of China, Ms. Kim wept over her little 8 year old son and herold mother. What would happen to themnow that the Chinese police had caught her carrying mechanical goods to NorthKorea? The North Korean police weremerciless, but so were the Chinese police.
Now, her son and mothermust be worried out of their minds. Ifonly she could tell them that she was not dead. But at the same time, it was not easy for her to stay alive either -eating the few raw, hard chestnuts here and there that she could find.
Who would take care of herson and mother now, back in Yangkang, Heasan? Her old mother was 76. 33 yearold Ms. Kim had hoped to feed her mother and her son by selling the mechanicalproducts. Of course it had been a hugerisk. And she had been caught. Now she was in hiding - hopefully the policewould not catch her again.
Her heart beat so fastevery time she heard a noise in the woods that might seem like a human wasnear. She didn’t have the shoesnecessary for all this hiking and hiding, and she didn’t have the strength,either.
She waited - cold,grief-stricken and hungry - for a safetime to come out of the mountain hidingplace. She kept herself motivated tostay alive by the memory of her dear son; how many times she had tried to encourage him, and take care ofhim. His face and voice were in hermind. Was he crying himself to sleeplike she was?
She waited. Would she be able to escape detection if sheentered civilization? But she couldn’tgo back to North Korea - that would mean the famous prison camps well known fortorture, for those caught in any offense against the government.
Finally, Ms. Lee felt shehad to leave the mountains. It waseither leave or die. But she was caughtby Chinese civilians. Of course she hadbeen noticed. No one spoke herlanguage. Also, North Koreans areshorter in stature because of severe malnutrition; Chinese can easily recognize a North Koreanwoman. And as a woman, she was now worthmoney to them. She was slave material!
And so, Ms. Lee began 4years of slavery, with continual degrading sexual and physical assaults,screaming threats, and hopelessness. She didn’tdescribe the man who bought and tortured her. But she admitted, she thought about suicide every day.
What happens when you are aslave, with no legal status, in a country that has no regard for the human rights of women who arecaptured and sold into slavery? You hopefor death.
The only thing that keptMs. Kim alive was the love and memory of her son, whom she had given her lifefor. For eight years of his life, shehad done everything she could to give him a little food. There was never any certainty that therewould be a next meal. This was so hardfor a little child, and hard for a mother too.
If only she could hold himagain. As she told NAUH about this, shewept painful tears. She had finallyescaped slavery and found NAUH, and now she is desperate to come to South Koreafor her son’s sake. Of course there isno guarantee that she can rescue him from the grip of North Korea. And mostly likely, her mother is gone now. So who is taking care of her boy?
“Will he ever forgiveme?” These are her thoughts. Can he ever understand that she dideverything because she wanted to keep him safe? She wants his forgiveness. Thereis no rest for her mind.
If she can receive legalstatus, she wishes to bring her son to South Korea. She says she wishes to cook for him, and feedhim with nice food. After all, this isthe only reason she ever left her dear son.
Will you help us in givingMs. Lee some hope? We’ll do our best, hereat NAUH, if we can find financial partners.
Every rescue we provide is only possiblebecause of kind and generous contributions we receive from people like you.
I’VE LOST EVERYONE, I HAVENOTHING TO LIVE FOR IN NORTH KOREA - (the story of Ms. Baek)
Ms. Baek remembers the daythat her husband went to gather wood at the mountain, trying to take care ofthe family in the middle of the Great Famine. Her three little sons waited a long time for father to come home, but henever did. A falling tree killed him.
Now she was alone as thebreadwinner. She waited for hours inlong lines for food distribution. Herthree beloved sons were so hungry. Thereis no promise of success in receiving food distribution in North Korea. In fact, most of the time it is an emptypromise with heartbreak at the end.
For Ms. Baek, it was mostoften an empty promise. Imagine theweariness of standing in long, slow lines, your body tired and malnourished,and the weight of your sons’ hunger pressing down on your heart. This was during the years of the Great Famine- she had married in 1993, and now her sons were going through theirdevelopmental years with NO FOOD.
North Koreans are stuntedin physical growth because of malnutrition. Research and documentation showssignificant and distressing damage done to the bodies of North Koreans who havelived through years of near starvation. The outrage of this is that starvation was not necessary. The policies enacted by North Koreandictators were unthinkably foolish, making the country vulnerable to ruin, andguaranteeing the death of so many North Korean citizens - before, during, andafter the Great Famine.
One day, Ms. Baek’s frienddid something that gave her such hope - this friend lent her 10 kilograms ofdried corn.
A handful of dried corncould mean the difference between life and death! Ms. Baek knew what to do. She made a few noodles, which she hoped tosell. She wouldn’t allow her sons to eatthe corn (though they were starving). No, she had to use this corn as a kind of deposit so that she might havea way to earn a few pennies. If her sonshad eaten the corn, there was no future for them.
On every side, herneighbors were dying of starvation. Ms.Baek walked the distance to the market, with such weariness. And then robbers attacked. All of her noodles were taken.
With her tired body, shetried to chase the robbers. She ran asfar as she could. This took her far fromhome. What would her husband do, if he were here? She could remember how he had used his strengthto even die for the family. She couldnot just give up. And so, she hunted therobbers and was far from home. But shenever caught them.
What would she tell hersons? They had trusted her. They had obeyed her by not eating thecorn. She knew that tears awaitedher.
When she returned they weredead.
What had happened? It was starvation. Ms. Baek wished that she herself wasalso gone. Everything she had ever done had not savedany one in her family from death.
It was time to escape this countryof hopelessness! She crossed the AprokRiver into China. There, she was sold tothe Han Chinese for around 10 USD, perhaps a little more - the price is a bitunclear. There she was tortured as a sexslave for a year.
What could be worse thanlosing a husband, 3 sons, and being sold as a sex slave to a person who treatsyou like an animal? Here’s theanswer: being “repatriated” to thecountry of horror, North Korea.
In 2002 she was again inNorth Korea, this time in the prison camp called ‘nodong danryundae’:
In “nodong danryundae”, prisoners in general are forced toundertake physically demanding work, including mountain logging and stonequarrying, often for 10 hours or more a day, with no rest days. Prisoners arepunished if suspected of lying, not working fast enough or forgetting the wordsof patriotic songs. Forms of punishment include beatings, forced exercise,sitting without moving for prolonged periods of time and humiliating publiccriticism. Due to the combination of forced hard labour, inadequate food,beatings, lack of medical care and unhygienic living conditions, many prisonersfall ill and some have died in custody or soon after release.
People who have served time in prison camps in North Koreaoften cite cases of forced labour and beatings by prison guards or fellowprisoners. A female prisoner who was sentenced to a nodong danryundaedescribed: “We were sent to the mountains to carry stones on our backs orheads. Because of the friction, the skin on my back peeled and bled...Guardswere always yelling and hitting the prisoners”.
After Ms. Baek was released- more broken, if possible, than she had ever been - she was fed by her youngersister for 45 days. Doubtless thissister was terrified of the consequences of having a relative who had beencaught and imprisoned; she herself wouldnever outlive the stigma and hardship of that stigma. The government never forgives the families ofthose who have been caught.
Ms. Baek did theimpossible. How she dragged her weakenedbody to China again is a mystery. Shedoes not tell us of the pain of the struggle to find NAUH. We are depending on the kindness ofcontributors to give her a chance to live, eat, sleep, and heal.
This hope is only possible because of kindand generous contributions.
My Baby, Please ForgiveMama - (the story of Ms. Lee)
As a child, Ms. Lee was thebreadwinner. Her father was always verysick. And so, she did all the chores inJakangdo, Chunkangkun.
She counted on a friend formoral support as she worked to sell things at the market. Life is easier when you are not all alone,especially in your poverty. She did thebest she could to save money: she walkedabout 30 km (almost 20 miles) to the market. It wasn’t easy with a body that was emaciated by hunger. But that was not the worst thing. Her friend deceived her, and took all the profit.
Ms. Lee couldn’t giveup. That would mean death. Once again she tried to sell at the market bygoing into debt. She was robbed of allthat she had.
Now she lived the life of ahunted person. She was harassed by money lenders, and lived in fear of theirthreats and horrible behavior.
There was only onesolution, she thought: China, the landof rice. There, she was sold to a manwho was even more in debt than she had ever been. She had always been poor and hungry, but nowshe was poor, hungry, and sexually assaulted, treated worse than a dog.
It was time for her to givebirth in this foreign land where she had no legal status. She couldn’t escape - it would only meanrepatriation. There was no way out. But then on the day that she was in such hardlabor, giving birth, the police came!
Her body was in suchpain! The labor pains would not stop, ofcourse. We don’t know how she was ableto drag her body to run and hide in a storage unit. There, Ms. Lee gave birth to her baby. The hours of pain did not bring relief: nowshe could not even feed the baby - she had nothing to give the child. And, her own body was going to shut down soon- with no medical care, no food, no rest, and no warmth, she was indanger. It seemed as if death would cometo them both.
Where could she hide with ababy for long?
We can’t give details onhow she found NAUH. We know that she alwayscarried a big knife, as a last resort: if she ever got repatriated to North Korea, she was going to killherself with it.
But instead of that knife,she is now dreaming of carrying a legal South Korean ID close to herchest. Will you help Ms. Lee? We want to give her hope.
This hope is possible because of kind andgenerous contributions.
Please join us in saving one life at a time.
Weat NAUH desire to rescue every person who appeals to us for help,
butthere are times when we must turn people down because of lack of funding.
It costs about $2000 USD to save onerefugee life.
(Our priority is orphans, women, and men -in that order.)
Because of your contributions, we are saving one life at atime;
NAUH has partnered with you so far to give freedom to 359 lives.