Min Hyuk grew up in a fatherless home, having been told that his father passed away when he was young. Around age 7 or 8, his mother was bedridden by cancer, and Min Hyuk had to drop out of school in order to take care of the house. It wasn’t until he was in his teens that a neighbor let it slip that his father was alive. They reconnected and he lived with his father until he was eighteen.
Min Hyuk enlisted in the military after he came of age, but found that it was in shambles; Soldiers were not properly fed and often had to cook their own food because there was no staff in the cafeterias. He said that beneath their uniforms, all the soldiers were just bags of skin and bones. As a result, soldiers often roamed around, foraging and stealing food.
Min Hyuk had only been in the military for about three years when he and some of his fellow platoon members were caught stealing a farm animal, which they had hoped to eat. While waiting to be punished, Min Hyuk escaped. “My country betrayed me over a farm animal and the one person I cared about, my mother, was long gone,” he said.
After crossing in China, he spent the night in a cornfield and was discovered the next morning by its owner. After spending a couple of days helping the owner plant his field, the owner asked him if he would like to go to South Korea. Min Hyuk had never considered it before, but said yes. The owner put him in touch with LiNK’s network.
Everything is so new and different to Min Hyuk. In North Korea, he had never watched anything other than propaganda films. China gave him a whole new perspective. He realized he had been told countless lies about the rest of the world and the state of North Korea. He thinks the standard of living in China is ten times better than in North Korea and was amazed that everyone had their own car.
He hasn’t yet had time to really think about what he wants to do when he gets to South Korea, but he definitely wants to go back to school. He also really enjoys mechanics, machinery, and cars. He’s also interested in learning English and Chinese, but he said he’s most interested in working as a field coordinator someday.
Min Hyuk is gradually thinking of his freedom more and more, but he’s still worried about resettling in a completely different place and thinks it will be difficult. Perhaps it is because he is alone, but he is very focused on keeping in touch with the people that took care of him during his journey and thanking them for the momentous change his life has had.