"Now I tell my story because I want people to care about North Koreans."
Q: Where were you born?
YJ: I was born in Gyeongsong County, North Hamgyeong Province, but grew up in Chongjin.
Q: When were you born?
YJ: October 1959.
Q: When did you arrive in South Korea?
YJ: In April 1997, by crossing the eastern part of the demarcation line.
Q: What was your childhood like?
YJ: I went through 9 years of mandatory education and then I went to university.
I joined the army right after the Axe Murder Incident on August 18th, 1976.
I served as a radio operator in Kaesong.
Q: Did you have any hobbies/pastimes/etc?
YJ: I always wanted to perform on stage. I was shy and introverted but had a good singing voice.
I was also good at delivering speeches. I majored in mathematics and physics in university.
Q: What was your adult life lie?
YJ: Life was hard since the distribution system collapsed in the early 80s.
It was tough.
Q: Did you have a job in North Korea? If so, what did you do?
YJ: After retiring from the military, I was in charge of radio communications at Cheongjin port.
<'A Mark of Red Honer', p. 238-239> “I, my health recovered, wanted to board a merchant ship…
To board a merchant ship, one had to enter the School of Merchant Seamen that educates sailors.
The School of Merchant Seamen is for 2 years and located in Chongjin. The vice principal of the School
told me that I only need a recommendation since they were in need of a radio operator…”
Q: Did yu enjoy army life?
YJ: I joined the army when I was 19 years old. I received a lot of attention during my 10-year military service.
It was not too hard.
Q: When did you decided that you wanted to leave North Korea and why did you
want to leave? When did you escape? I read that it was impossible to escape
through China so you crossed the DMZ. Wasn’t this more difficult/dangerous?
Where there other routes in China you could have sought?
YJ: My wift was a math teacher in high school but our marriage was uncomfortable
and boring for me from the start.
I decided to leave at the age of 35.
The Tumen river border was about 8km away from my house. So I first entered
China and sought help from the Korean Embassy in Beijing. They refused as there
were defectors who tried this before me. I then contacted the South Korean
consultate in Shanghai but the result was the same. I even considered taking the
route through Southeast Asia but, due to lack of means, had to return to North Korea
From April 1st to the 7th, 1997, I made my way to the DMZ and then crossed. I
arrived at a South Korean observation post at 3 a.m.
I became the 1,013 person to defect from North Korea (Number 1,012 was Hwang)