Ji Yeon had a rough childhood. Her mother gave her up at a very young age so she lived with her grandmother, a loving, caring woman who sacrificed a lot to give Ji Yeon a good life. When her grandmother died, Ji Yeon was sent to an orphanage. There her life consisted of labor and farm work rather than education and family.
As a teen, her uncle pulled her out of the orphanage and she briefly worked in a coal mine with her mother and other relatives. She managed to escape North Korea three times, but with each repatriation, the watchful eye of the North Korean secret police got more intense.
One day, Ji Yeon’s uncle arranged for her final departure from North Korea by selling her to a Chinese man. Upon arrival in China, she wasn’t allowed to contact her family or leave the house, and conditions were horrible, as her new family feared she would try to run away. After much time at home with her husband and the television, she was able to learn enough Chinese to get a job.
Although Ji Yeon’s life in China had begun to get better, she was still highly vulnerable to repatriation. Hoping to follow through with her plan on resettling in South Korea, she reached out to an extended relative who was already living there. Her family put her in touch with LiNK’s network to arrange her escape and Ji Yeon is now in safety. After resettling in South Korea she hopes to work with children and maybe even teach at a preschool.