When she was 9 years old, Hae Jin’s family home burned down. With nowhere to live, they were forced to live a nomadic lifestyle, staying with different families.
Eventually they were able to buy a small storehouse. While she admits it was better than relying on others, it still wasn’t a home. Life got increasingly more difficult after her parents separated and her mother was left to raise three children on her own. When asked about her fondest memory in North Korea, she confessed that she didn’t have any.
Hae Jin’s family decided to go to China to find temporary relief from their arduous lives in North Korea. Her relatives helped them escape, and she spent 2 ½ years working in restaurants where she made far less than her Chinese counterparts because she was a North Korean. The longer Hae Jin lived in China, the more her desire to return home started to fade because she knew that the quality of life wouldn’t improve there. But on the other hand, she knew staying in China wasn’t an option because she never felt safe and her family was forced to live apart. She desired freedom and a life void of fear and hunger. LiNK was able to rescue her mother and two brothers and helped them resettle in South Korea. In January of 2013, LiNK brought Hae Jin to freedom and gave her the opportunity be reunited with her family. One of the most amazing things she learned in China was that there are people who care about North Koreans! Her hope for the rest of her countrymen is that they escape and discover the same truth.
UPDATE: February 2014
Hae Jin just registered for nursing assistant school, which she will attend in the spring. She’s not sure how her choice to become a nursing assistant will turn out, but she’s happy that she has the freedom to make these types of decisions for herself.
In the meantime, she’s been studying English with a tutor from LiNK’s English-Language Tutor program to prepare for university-level English classes. During winter break, she took computer and word-processing classes. Although she’s busy with her ambitious class schedule, Hae Jin is excited to learn and knows that she’s investing in her future.
UPDATE: August 2014
Now that Hae Jin’s been in nursing assistant school for a few months, she feels that she’s starting to get the hang of it and is currently doing her practical training in a hospital near her school. Though she’s living on campus, which is several hours from her house, she still goes home every weekend to spend time with her family and participate in tutoring sessions with LiNK’s English Tutor & Cultural Exchange (ETCE) Program. Hae Jin really enjoys studying with her tutor and also learning about the culture of her tutor’s home country, Australia. Hae Jin studies hard in nursing assistant school and during her tutoring sessions. At the same time, she doesn’t forget to enjoy life. One of things people can easily notice about her is that she is always smiling and projecting positivity.