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November 23, 2014, 11:24:17 PM
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Offline Peter

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The Rescue of Ji-eun by PSCORE's Kim Yong-il
« on: November 23, 2014, 11:24:17 PM »
One of the aims of PSCORE Korea, an NGO that helps North Korean defectors, is to “undertake rescue operations of North Korean defectors living overseas”. It’s astounding what those few words entail.

I had the unforgettable experience of hearing Kim Young-il, NK defector and PSCORE’s founder, describe one such rescue last Friday night.
19-year-old Ji-eun was stuck in a Chinese border city with severe frost bite on her feet due to a winter border crossing (escape is a better word) made without shoes. Part of the money paid to brokers – a small part – is supposed to enable the broker to buy essentials for the defector. Not doing so obviously reduces a broker’s expenses.

Separated from her family and abandoned by the serial-raping broker paid to look after her, she was alone and unable to walk (and speak the language) in a town patrolled by a police force tasked with arresting people like her and returning them to North Korea for either immediate execution or life in a concentration camp - if that can be called a life. Word of her plight reached Kim Yong-il, and he flew to China to rescue her, risking several years’ jail if caught.

I’m sure the 6-week story of that rescue with all its close calls, bluffs, interrogations, corrupt cops, humane cops, acts of greed and kindness, surreal and even humorous moments will be told soon. I don't want to tell her story here, and I couldn't even begin to do it justice anyway, but suffice to say I've never ever heard a story like it. I still can't quite get my head around the fact those surreal, frightening, and amazing events didn't take place 70 years ago in Nazi-controlled Europe where such stories belong.

Ji-eun was set to give the presentation herself but pulled out at the last minute due to stress. If she feels well enough to tell her story in person, and if you live in Seoul, do not miss the chance to hear it.

Here's a brief interview with Kim Yong-il. His own escape story involves 30 hours spent lying on top of a train in winter with a broken arm:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-26607333


August 01, 2015, 12:35:52 AM
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Offline Peter

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Re: The Rescue of Ji-eun by PSCORE's Kim Yong-il
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2015, 12:35:52 AM »
I attended another event organised by PSCORE tonight and, like the event described above, it was an experience I'll never forget.


I've never in my life seen a human being break down emotionally to the extent that Guem-ok did tonight. The experience of watching her uncontrollable tears and cries was heartbreaking and traumatic yet so very important. How could she not break down after describing the deaths of two of her children due to starvation, the death of another who was stillborn, repeated rapes, repeated beatings and torture sessions, the loss of loved ones, and being repeatedly bought, sold, and "repatriated" for more of the above? The courage it must have taken to talk about such personal horrors astounded me. And she kept wanting to continue. I hope this doesn't cheapen her courage, but I was reminded of Rocky Balboa repeatedly getting back up (and going on to win) after being knocked down by the likes of Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, and that great big Russian guy. Just when I would think to myself "she's had enough and she's said enough," she would compose herself and continue. I can't think of any acts of courage I've witnessed in person that could compare. I have to say the brave victims of the JMS cult came to mind - I just didn't witness them in person.

Also part of the evenings events was a screening of a short documentary about the rescue of Ji-eun, the subject of the first PSCORE event I attended. While the documentary really only gave the short version of her rescue/escape - Kim Yong-il went into much greater detail - it was fascinating to see the face of the young woman (slightly pixelated) who endured so much pain, misery, and stress in her quest for freedom. Unfortunately, the video isn't online as Ji-eun is concerned about her safety here in South Korea and for her relatives still in North Korea. Again, I hope the time will come soon when she no longer has anything to fear and will feel safe enough to share her ordeal. Hers is absolutely a story that needs to be told and remembered.

August 04, 2015, 07:15:34 AM
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Offline Peter

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Re: The Rescue of Ji-eun by PSCORE's Kim Yong-il
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2015, 07:15:34 AM »
Along with all the tears, there were also quite a few hugs. This photo from PSCORE's Facebook page sums up the evening well.


This is an English translation of a song (minus a few words on the right - my fault) her father and some of her siblings sang hours before an unsuccessful attempt to defect.  They are now, as far as Geum-ok knows, in one of the North's concentration camps. A recording of the song - perhaps an actual recording of her family singing it - was played. Geum-ok cried the whole time with her head in the lap of one of the translators. When the song finished, she screamed "All we wanted was to live in a place that had food. We are not criminals!"