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  • From the moment I was born, I was fed propaganda. And I viewed the Kim family dynasty

  • not only as our fearless protectors from the imperialist forces but as gods.

  • Growing up I never thought our country's founder Kim Il-Sung could even go to the bathroom, like us humans.

  • It wasn't until the age of fourteen when I watched his funeral, I realized that he was actually human.

  • Until that moment, I thought our god couldn't die.

  • Using elaborative deceptions as tools of control the North Korean leaders

  • are able to indoctrinate and brainwash

  • the vast majority of the citizens, depriving them of their right to learn the truth about the outside world.

  • North Korean authorities also demand complete loyalty and submission to the system

  • and those who refuse are considered enemies of the state.

  • And they are suffering horrific human rights offenses.

  • For example, there have been numerous cases in my hometown where entire families disappeared

  • in the middle of the night: one of the family members complained.

  • One of my friend's father said simply to his best friend "this system is unfair" and he was sent to prison camp

  • while his family was forcibly relocated to a desolate place in the countryside

  • where it is extremely difficult to survive.

  • Many people in prison don't even know why they were sent there, and they were completely stunned

  • when they were dragged out of their homes and thrown into prison, ruining their lives forever.

  • I also witnessed my first public execution when I was seven years old.

  • I was stunned to see the crowd around the man hanging from a bridge.

  • North Korean authorities want people to live in a constant state of fear

  • so they force us to watch public executions.

  • Sometimes schools cancelled their classes, and the students could witness the public execution.

  • Attendance was mandatory.

  • People were even executed for very minor offenses

  • such as a man who stole one kilogram of grain from a farm to feed his starving family.

  • The North Korean authorities often imprison those who try escape

  • or make money in China to support their families back home.

  • Yes, support.

  • The socialist system provides no support and forces people into miserable lives of poverty and hunger.

  • Ultimately, the biggest killer in North Korea is starvation.

  • Which has killed more than a million North Korean people.

  • By mid 1990's I started to notice that people around me were suffering.

  • One day in 1995, I went to my friend's home and I noticed the whole family had nothing to eat.

  • And the following year, I read a letter from a woman about her whole family was dying

  • because they didn't have any food for weeks.

  • They had no energy and no health, so the five family members were lying on the floor

  • together and they were waiting to die.

  • My most vivid memory from the famine was a lifeless woman lying on the street with

  • while an emaciated child in her arms, just stared helplessly at his mothers face.

  • I was so sad.

  • I placed some money in the child's lap, but I knew it wouldn't last.

  • At the time, I still didn't know that we were suffering due to our government's failed system.

  • I believed the regime’s propaganda - that we were only suffering because of American sanctions.

  • And I praised all of the leaders for protecting us and doing their best for us.

  • Fortunately, information beyond the regime's control would soon help open my mind.

  • I lived right next to the Chinese border, so amazingly our television could pick up a few Chinese TV channels.

  • As I watched them secretly I became overwhelmed with curiosity and full of dreams about the outside world.

  • Although even watching TV was a problem because of our constant power shortages.

  • At night surrounded by darkness, poverty and starvation.

  • I often gazed across the river at China's brilliant street lights and neon signs

  • and I gradually realized that my country is not the best in the world.

  • I had been lied to all of my life.

  • After this revelation, I was determined to leave North Korea, to find out the truth about the outside world.

  • I thought that I could quickly return from the journey to China

  • yet I could never have imagined that it would take fourteen years until I would see my family again.

  • After arriving in China, I finally began to learn the truth about my country, and most importantly

  • I realized that a life of fear, hunger, oppression is a crime against the North Korean people.

  • Although I began to get a sense of freedom in China, I was also terrified since the

  • Chinese government would capture and repatriate North Koreans to a horrible fate back in North Korea.

  • I couldn't go back to North Korea because I had a rumor that I had defected

  • so I had to live with some distant relatives in China.

  • After three years of living under the radar, someone eventually reported me.

  • So, I was taken to the police station.

  • The interrogators were grilling me for a long time and forced me to read difficult Chinese news papers.

  • I acted calmly on the outside, but inside my heart felt like it was going to explode.

  • If I failed to convince them that I was Chinese, my family and I would be in huge trouble.

  • Thanks to the countless hours I spent studying Chinese, at that the time my Chinese language abilities

  • were good enough to answer those questions and read those papers.

  • After what seemed like an eternity one official said to another

  • This was a false report, she is not North Korean.” And they let me go.

  • It was truly a miracle.

  • After ten years of living and struggling in China I decided that I wanted to see the differences

  • between North Korea and the life in South Korea with my own eyes.

  • So, I got a visa to South Korea using my Chinese passport

  • and finally I received asylum at South Korea’s international airport.

  • But, settling down in South Korea was a lot more challenging than I had expected.

  • North Koreans and South Koreans look similar on the outside, but inside we have changed

  • due to more than 60 years of division.

  • Throughout this time our lifestyles, cultures and even languages have become different.

  • And I went through a serious identity crisis.

  • And surprisingly, I had to face yet another language barrier in South Korea.

  • Since English is so important.

  • While studying for the university entrance exam, suddenly, everything one day changed.

  • I heard that my family in North Korea had a serious problem with the government because of me

  • so I had no choice but to risk my life by helping them to escape.

  • So I took a plane back to China and I met them secretly on the Chinese border with North Korea.

  • It is such a difficult journey for North Koreans, to travel thousands of kilometers without being caught in China.

  • But luckily with God's help we were able to overcome numerous encounters with the Chinese police.

  • Even though we made it successfully, my family was caught crossing the border into Laos

  • and then they were thrown into prison.

  • After fifty days of going back and forth between the law, immigration office and the police station

  • trying to negotiate their release, I realized I didn’t have enough money to pay fines and bribes anymore.

  • I was so distraught. The whole world seemed so dark.

  • But luckily the bright ray of sunshine came into my life at the time.

  • An Australian man named Dick who was traveling in South East Asia.

  • After he heard my story he paid all the fines and bribes to my family

  • and three other North Koreans to be freed from the same prison.

  • I was lucky that I left North Korea and eventually made it to South Korea.

  • But millions of others are still living in a virtual prison without knowing about the truth

  • or the concept of human rights.

  • Also colonies of North Korean women are suffering in China

  • as they are forced into sexual slavery or sold as brides.

  • These days North Korean refugees are playing a very important role as a bridge

  • between North Korea and the international community.

  • We send money and information inside North Korea that is helping to change North Korean people's mind.

  • But, North Korean refugees in South Korea are having a hard time adjusting to a highly competitive society

  • since we never received proper education or important job skills in North Korea.

  • I'm still a university student, after my graduation I will aim to support North Korean refugees

  • who want to receive higher education as well as North Korean students

  • who wants to study abroad and connect people with the international community.

  • Concerned people around the world, we share the responsibility to help the North Korean people

  • and we can do so in a bright way such as donating to charities

  • volunteering and urging our governments to get more involved.

  • Most importantly we can continue to spread the word about the plight of the North Korean people

  • and the crime of the Kim dynasty and work together to find viable solutions.

  • As free people of the world, we not only have a duty but a moral obligation to lend a helping hand

  • to the struggling North Korean refugees and to liberate the North Korean people

  • from their shackles of oppression.

  • Thank you for listening.

From the moment I was born, I was fed propaganda. And I viewed the Kim family dynasty

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B1 INT US north north korean korean korea north korea south korea

Hyeonseo Lee - A North Korean Rescue Story

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    陳磊   posted on 2016/02/12
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