Ga Won lived a happy, uneventful childhood in North Korea. As a young adult, she never experienced the hardships of the famine because she was in the military and was always given enough to eat. It was only after she was discharged that her life took a turn for the worse.
Shortly after settling down with a husband and having a son, Ga Won was implicated in a money-laundering scheme that lost the members of her community group thousands of dollars. She was sent to a reeducation camp and suffered over a year of excruciating conditions. She was frequently beaten and tortured. On one occasion she was strapped to a cross and forced to stay outside for two months.
After her release, Ga Won went home to find her husband living with another woman. With nowhere else to go, she moved in with her mother and escaped to China shortly after. She lived and worked in China for about a year, fortunately meeting good people who protected her and helped her prepare for her journey to South Korea.
Ga Won learned all about the modern world during her time in China, even using a computer and smartphone. As a result, she does not have much fear about resettling in South Korea. She wants to study English, but most importantly, she wants to advocate for the North Korean people so their voices can be heard.
“I did not leave because I was starving or felt suffocated by the lack of freedom. I am smart, I know how to survive, and I had an okay life in North Korea. I left because the world needs to know how much torture and terror there is in North Korea. I want people to know about THAT and I want to be the one who helps tell this story. I want resolution. I want acknowledgement,” she said.