Csaba Lukács, Journalist

North Korean refugee, Soon-Sil Lee in Seoul

North Korean refugee, Soon-Sil Lee in Seoul

Hungarian journalist Csaba Lukács tells his story of Soon-Sil Lee, a North Korean refugee

I am sitting in a room at the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission in Seoul with a North Korean refugee opposite me. She is speaking in a low, emotionless voice. Even 300 years ago the things she says would have caused a public outrage; but her story is fresh, and it happened only 70 kilometers away from here, on the other side of the demilitarized zone in the Korean-peninsula.

Soon-Sil Lee is a short-haired woman with a hard look. She fled from the North in 2007, after having served 11 years in the army of Kim Jong-Il. She worked as a nurse and was witness to forced, brutal abortions on several occasions, as giving birth to a child was considered a weakness given that you are not able to serve your country fully anymore. She tried to escape nine times but was sent back, beaten and tortured. She gave birth to her child on the street.

She says the torture inside the prison is impossible to describe. Most women are sexually humiliated and exploited. When she screamed for mercy she was told that if she still had the strength to cry, they would continue. She was beaten several times in front of her own child.
When she finally made it to China, she ended up in the hands of ruthless human traffickers who separated mother and child. Both of them were sold and Lee Sun Sil had to work as a slave in a restaurant near the border.

She’s not the only one to shed tears as the shocking story unfolds – the interpreter says sorry and can’t go on for a while. The silence is broken by the ex-soldier: “I’m telling you this all because I hope that my child might see me in the press wherever she is. And then maybe we can find each other again. This desire is the only thing that makes me go on. I am like a fool – I see my child in every kid I meet.”

Photo by Csaba Lukács, October 2013

Csaba Lukács is a Hungarian journalist who writes for Magyar Nemzet daily. He has reported from all around the word and often arrives first to the locations of natural disasters with rescue and aid teams.

1 family torn apart by war is too many

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