Byung Hoon remembers life being good when he was younger—though food was never abundant, it was also never lacking—but as the years passed, he started to notice that there were many difficulties facing the people of North Korea. Where people once received fair rations in exchange for labor, they instead were being forced to work and given nothing in return. “If you did not do what the state told you to do, you were labeled a criminal. Instead of the state working for the people, the people are considered animals whose job is to uphold the state,” he said.
Byung Hoon experienced difficulties with succeeding in his career, but what was worse was that he was not allowed to speak his mind when he felt the state’s actions were unfair. He said, “You can’t express your thoughts as you would like to. If you’re told to do something, you have to do it. If Kim Jong-un doesn’t need you, you may as well die. He only thinks about his own power.”
He knew that others around him were having the same thoughts, but it was dangerous for anyone to discuss them. If overheard, they would be arrested. Life was so difficult that Byung Hoon began to think that it wouldn’t matter if a war broke out between the North and the South. It would be just as hard to deal with war as it was to live an average life in North Korea—there was a possibility that both could result in death.
Byung Hoon is very thankful to finally be free and only feels regret because of the people he left behind in North Korea, saying “I think 50% of North Koreans would leave if they could. I want to live in a way that shows I didn’t leave my fellow North Koreans in vain. I hope that the whole world will come to know the truth of North Korea.”