On Song lived a good childhood in an upper-class family, attending special schools reserved for people of her social class and nurturing dreams of becoming a doctor or scientist. After her parents shut those dreams down because they felt they were improper for a girl, she instead became an accountant and worked for a special division of the government for several years. However, once her father retired and his salary and benefits stopped, life immediately took a turn for the worse. It was difficult for her mother to adjust to their new economic situation, and she soon fell seriously ill and passed away.
Things only became more difficult for On Song from that point on. Shortly after her son was born, she got into an argument with her in-laws. They took her son from her and placed him with a foster family. When her marriage ended in a messy divorce, she was left jobless, homeless, and penniless. She finally tracked down her son and saw that he was doing well with his new family. She knew she couldn’t provide the same quality of care given her situation, so she decided to leave him with them. It was at this point that she realized her future looked grim if she remained in North Korea. She made the dangerous escape across the border into China and was quickly sold as a bride. She ran away from her “husband” a year later. She did her best to hide from the Chinese authorities, but eventually one of her neighbors reported her and she was repatriated.
She was sent to a reeducation camp where she endured horrifying conditions. She said she saw fellow prisoners around her die every day. After she was released a year later, she managed to escape again to China and was rescued by LiNK. Now she looks forward to life in South Korea and is not worried about facing hardships there, having already seen the worst that life has to offer.
“I don’t want my first step in South Korea to be too high, because I want to be able to move up one step by one step, learning the whole way. I believe that even though it’s hard, I must go through it.”
On Song is safe today because people around the world stepped up to fund her rescue. Now, she has the freedom to pursue her ambitions and live life as she chooses. You can make a difference in the lives of more North Korean refugees like On Song by donating to our work.
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