“Living in North Korea is like Living in Another Universe”

On March 18, Jubilee Campaign attended a discussion panel hosted by the US Mission to the United Nations, where four North Korean women shared their testimonies of the atrocities that they faced in North Korea and during their journeys to escape. These women’s stories are similar to millions who live in North Korea.

Young-soon Kim spent 9 years in a political prison camp, along with her family. She found out after she was released that she had been imprisoned due to her friendship with a hidden mistress of Kim Jong-il. Of her entire family, only Ms. Kim and her son survived the camp, and still her son lives with crippling mental disabilities because of the scarring experiences and torture he faced in North Korea. Ms. Kim says, “If you really want to establish peace in the world, I think it’s as urgent as dealing with North Korea’s nuclear issue to resolve or get rid of all the political prison camps in North Korea.”

Lucia Jang’s first husband sold their son, without her knowing, to a wealthy North Korean family for a small amount of money and some bars of soap. Lucia later traveled back and forth to China to sell goods in order to provide for her starving parents. On one of her journeys she was taken and sold to a Chinese man who locked her in his house and continuously sexually abused her. She escaped his home and hid in a farm along the border where she fell in love with the farmers’ son. Chinese authorities caught her and sent her back to North Korea where she was imprisoned in a concentration camp for one year. After her release she fled back to China to be with her lover. There she became pregnant a second time, but she had to return to North Korea because the father’s family did not want the child. After returning, she was imprisoned again and authorities demanded that she abort the baby. Not wanting to lose a second child, she received help from her father and permanently escaped North Korea.

Hyeon-seo Lee is a young woman who describes living in North Korea like living in another universe. When she was a young girl, her house caught on fire. Without checking on his children, Ms. Lee’s father risked his life to run back in the house and save the portraits of Kim Jong-il. At the time, it was not surprising to Ms. Lee that her father would risk his life to save the dictator’s portraits. This is what any North Korean father would have done. If the portraits were not salvaged and left to burn, he would have faced punishment. It was only once Ms. Lee escaped North Korea that she realized North Koreans were brainwashed to care more about their leader than their children. Ms. Lee also recalled the harsh abuses women face not only in North Korea, but also in China where they are commonly trafficked as slaves or sent back to North Korea.

Now a young mom, Eun-ju Kim lived most of her life never thinking she would become a mother because she lived in constant fear that she wouldn’t live to see the next day. Her family was struck hard by a famine in the 1990s. In 1997, her father died from starvation. One day, in desperation her mother and sister left Eun-ju Kim at home to go find food. Days later, thinking she would die of hunger before her family returned, Ms. Kim wrote her will as a mere 11 year old. Fortunately, her mother came back that day, though empty handed. They were then forced to live homeless. In the winter, they fled to China to escape starvation, only to have their struggles of hunger be replaced with struggles of human trafficking. Chinese authorities sent Ms. Kim back to North Korea where she experienced horrifying treatment upon return. Describing North Korea, Ms. Kim says, “to them, you are not human.”

Ambassador Power of the US, Ambassador Oh of South Korea, Ambassador Yoshikawa of Japan and  Ambassador Wilson of the UK all voiced their concerns for North Korean women and citizens and gave a commitment to take action for the human rights of North Koreans.

Please pray for the millions suffering in North Korea and the world leaders who have committed to fight for justice.

View an editorial of the event published in the Washington Times here.