After connecting with LiNK’s network, I had to hike up more mountains to get out of China. It was very difficult being eight-months pregnant. My legs hurt and began to swell up a lot. It was really dark and I fell a few times. It was so hard – I was completely exhausted.
There were other North Koreans escaping China with me and they were pulling me and helping me up. Whenever I wanted to give up, they encouraged me.
“We must go. We must go to South Korea to live. To live…”
I felt like it was my responsibility to keep going and to survive for myself and my daughter. The journey getting out of China was so tough. I was worried that my unborn baby might have died because I didn’t feel the baby moving in my stomach for a while.
After many months in government processing and after going through the Hanawon resettlement education center, I was finally able to live freely in South Korea. I was overjoyed.
Thankfully, my baby survived and I had a beautiful baby daughter right after I came to South Korea. More than a year later now, I am thankful that she is growing well and is in good health.
In North Korea, the police oppressed me, keeping me from doing what I needed to do to survive. And in China, the police were trying to find North Korean refugees who were living in hiding. They wanted to send us back to North Korea, even though they knew we would be brutally punished by the regime. Whenever the police came around, I locked all the doors and hid in fear until they left town. So at first, I was scared of the police in South Korea.
I got to know my assigned police officer and realized he is just a person like me and we are not that different. (Every resettled North Korean refugee in South Korea is assigned a police officer for their first five years. They check in on them on a regular basis, and provide basic legal advice and special protection if necessary.)
We talked openly and he shared about the challenges he had when he was younger. He calls me once a week to see how my daughter and I are doing. He has brought us fruit and diapers for my daughter. He is so sweet. He also helped me with paperwork, paying bills, and getting my phone fixed when it broke. I really appreciate him and now he feels like a friend to me.
Thanks to people like him, I can sleep well.
I have been surrounded by many good people from my church community, the Hana Center (the local South Korean government resettlement assistance center) and my designated police officer.
It felt so good to talk freely with many people in my first language–Korean. I had lived in China for many years and when I first went there, I knew no Chinese. I struggled so much with communicating and I couldn’t talk to people freely either because of the fear of getting caught.
Now I can talk to anyone without worrying about getting caught.
I am so glad I came to South Korea. My life here is much better than my life in North Korea or China. I feel very safe and free in South Korea.
I am still learning the meaning of freedom as I experience it in this new society. I can do what I want and go where I want to go. I can go somewhere just to have fun and no one stops me.
That is freedom to me, and I am living it right now.