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Bahng Mi Sun

2010 (Narrative date)

The Global Slavery Index 2018 estimates that there are 2,640,000 people living in conditions of modern slavery in The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). Men, women and children are subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Government oppression in the DPRK prompts many North Koreans to flee the country in ways that make them vulnerable to human trafficking in destination countries. Many of the estimated 10 000 North Korean women and girls who have migrated illegally to China to flee abuse and human rights violation are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Some lure, drug, detain or kidnap North Korean women on their arrival, others offer jobs but subsequently force the women into prostitution, domestic service, or forced marriage. If found, Chinese authorities often repatriate victims back to the DPRK where they are subjected to harsh punishment including forced labour in labour camps or death.

Bahng Mi Sun escaped North Korea in 2004. She tells of how after entering China, she was forcibly separated from her children and sold. Though she was able to eventually escape, while seraching for her children she was caught by Chinese police and forcibly repatriated to North Korea where she was forced to work in a labour camp.

My name is Bahng Mi Sun, and I entered South Korea on January 8, 2004. After having lived in hell for so long, once I came to South Korea, I was in heaven. And I am especially delighted to be here in the U.S., which is paradise on earth. Before escaping from North Korea, I had lived in the city of Musan in North Hamkyung Province. And during the so-called March of Adversity, my husband, who was a labourer in a mine, had starved to death. And in order to save my young children, I had risked my life to cross the Tumen River, and fortunately I arrived safely on the other side of China.

The first people that I met as soon as I set foot in China were Chinese brokers. Once they saw me, they used the safety and well-being of my children to threaten me. Finally, I was separated from my children, and I was sold for 4,000 Chinese renminbi, approximately $594. What was more infuriating was that these Chinese brokers would call North Korean defector women as pigs. And we were treated like indeed pigs.

I found out for the first time that there were such violent and shameless people in the world. And even if such people existed, how can they call human beings pigs, and how can one human being sell another human being? What hurt me more was that even though I was being treated in this inhuman manner, there was no place for me to go to and plead my grief, and this was frustrating and infuriating. In a period of a few months, I was sold two or three times, and one day I had succeeded in escaping in the process of searching for my children -- I am sorry. Rather, I did succeed in escaping. However, in the process of searching for my children, I was caught by the Chinese police and was forcibly repatriated to North Korea.

After my experience in the labor reform camp in North Korea, and during the camp imprisonment, I actually had suffered an injury, and my leg from the injury became severely handicapped. I am officially classified as physically handicapped in South Korea. Now, who is to blame for all this? This is all because of the dictator Kim Jong-ilin North Korea. It is also the fault of Hu Jintao, whose government arrested North Korean defector women and forcibly repatriated all of these women, and to allow for these women to suffer unspeakable harms.

If we are all human and if we had hearts, we would not let these two dictators do what they want, and the way they had done. I am not well read, learned, nor sophisticated. But I refuse to stay silent in the face of the tragedy befallen my homeland. Thank you for this very important opportunity to speak before you. Due to time constraint, I will end my testimony here. And lastly, I would like to thank all the North Korean human rights activists who are actively working in this area, and would like to especially thank Ms. Scholte and other human rights organizations for their efforts and help. Thank you very much.


Narrative provided by Escaping North Korea: The Plight of Defectors: Hearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission House of Representative