May 04, 2009 14:19
On Nov. 17, 2007, an eight-year-old boy called Choi Sung-ryong arrived at the China-Laos border from an 18-hour walk through the rainforest with four other North Korean defectors, all risking their lives in search of liberty. His father is a Chaoxianzu, an ethnic Korean in China, and his mother was a defector from North Korea.
Sung-ryong's father left for South Korea to work after his wife was deported back to North Korea and died. The boy had undertaken a long, arduous journey to meet his father, grazed by rocks, wet from slipping in a stream, scratched by thorns, and short of breath -- but he never complained.
Back on Nov. 7, 2003, Sung-ryong had seen his mother captured by Chinese security guards, of whom she had been afraid since crossing the Duman (or Tumen) River five years previously. The guards asked for money, but Sung-ryong's father could not pay. A year later, when news of her execution came though, the newly bereaved husband burst into tears in front of his son.
In June of 2006, having lost his wife, Sung-ryong's father departed for South Korea. He took out his entire fortune of 2,000-yuan or US$270 to buy a forged ID for his son, meaning Sung-ryong could finally attend school. His father missed the boy ever since and vice versa. Nov. 26, 2007 saw the boy arrive in Bangkok, Thailand, with high hopes of meeting his father.
However, Sung-ryong was detained by Thai Immigration for four months, while the South Korean government requested the boy prove his mother was really a North Korean defector. They were suspicious he was a Chaoxianzu, an ethnic Korean in China, pretending to be a defector from the North. "How can I bring my dead mom?" Sung-ryong thought, hopelessly.
His father then received a call from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. "The caller told me to bring my son myself, as he is Chinese." It seems the fake ID card Sung-ryong's father had acquired had become a shackle for his son. If Sung-ryong came to South Korea on a Chinese passport, would the Chinese government okay it?
A South Korean missionary who met Sung-ryong on Mar. 5, 2008 said, "Everybody who accompanied Sung-ryong has already left for South Korea but Sung-ryong is sobbing alone in prison all day. What shall we do?" Rev. Chun Ki-won, of Durihana Mission, complained to the Korean Embassy in Thailand, but met a cold response. "We will send him back to China. Laws should be abided by."
However, an officer in charge at the Foreign Ministry told reporters that he did not know this situation well, as he only just took the position. He would discuss it with his predecessor, he added. Just seven hours later, "We have confirmed this as a matter for the Ministry of Unification."
But calls to the Unification Ministry were met with answers like, "The official in charge is not available now. He will get back to you as soon as he is available." But no returning calls were made.
The news team has met numerous Sung-ryongs in China.
By Park Jong-in, Lee Hark-joon
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