Chang Soo’s struggles in North Korea started toward the end of the famine and spanned for nearly two decades. During this time, he found it incredibly difficult to get enough to eat. He distinctly remembers that he had less than half a cup of corn to add to his meals each day. By 2008, both of Chang Soo’s parents passed away and things only became harder for him.
Before her death, Chang Soo’s mother used to go back and forth between China and North Korea. One day, she was arrested coming back from China and was sent to prison. Chang Soo recalls her telling him that it was normal to see 10 people dying every day in the prison. Despite the danger he followed in her footsteps, trading across the border to survive. He wasn’t deterred from cross-border trade even after he was arrested more than once for doing so.
Chang Soo eventually decided to leave North Korea for good to make money in China. He had valuable knowledge of the border region, so he knew where he needed to go. However, after getting to China and finding shelter, he found his mind drifting to thoughts of South Korea. Even though escaping would be a huge risk, he realized that he would never be safe if he stayed in China.
After safely making the journey out of China, Chang Soo learned that he had the option to resettle in U.S., which was something he had never considered before. Now, he’s determined to make a new life for himself there. He’s looking forward to learning English, finding a job, and doing the sort of the leisure time activities (like exercise and drawing) he was never able to do in North Korea.