October 23, 2013 08:25
North Korean defector Kim Eun-sun, now a senior at Sogang University in Seoul, fled her repressive home country to South Korea in 2006. Her story first gained international attention when she told her story to Sebastian Falletti, the Seoul correspondent for the French daily Le Figaro. Earlier this month, the Korean version of their book "Corée du Nord: 9 ans pour fuir l'enfer" was released here, and she hopes it helps people understand North Korean defectors better and remember where they came from.
The book tells the story of how, in 1997, aged only 11, Eun-sun came close to death from starvation. Her mother had to sell their furniture and even blankets to survive after her father died of malnutrition. When she ran out of things to sell, her mother decided to escape to China with Eun-sun and her older sister, thinking, "If we were to die like this, it'd be better to die trying to run away."
They risked their life to cross the Duman River to China, but their life there was no less horrible than the one they left behind in the North.
Kim, her mother and sister wandered in search of food, only to be sold to a man in Hunchun for just 2,000 yuan by human traffickers. Her mother gave birth to a baby boy there, but at least they didn't have to worry about starving to death.
Kim vividly recalls the night they were caught by Chinese police and sent back to North Korea. A neighbor had reported them to the authorities for the reward money.
Kim says she still longed to return to her homeland while living with the Chinese man, but when she set foot on North Korean soil again, she was treated like "human scum." Her mother grew ill but was left untreated. Miraculously, the three women escaped again.
Her sister lived apart from Kim and her mother and went into hiding because she was afraid of being captured again. "We did all kinds of work to make money," Kim said. In 2006, Kim and her mother paid 20,000 yuan each to a broker to defect to South Korea. They had to work for four years to save up enough money to buy their trip to South Korea, where they eventually reunited with her sister.
In 2009, Kim started studying Chinese culture and psychology at Sogang University and now she is getting ready to find a job. Although successfully integrated into South Korean society, Kim says she will never forget her identity, which is why she decided to write about her life.
"I was worried that my brother in Hunchun might be affected, but I only hope that more people around the world become aware of the plight of North Korean defectors," she said.
Kim stresses that what she went through in North Korea and China was no different than what other defectors had to endure. "Defectors have almost no way of making others aware of what is going on in North Korea," she said. "I believe I tried to write what they want to tell the world."
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