Joy's Story: Part 3 - A Difficult Decision

December 17, 2019

Read parts one and two of Joy's story that detail her life in North Korea and how she was sold as a bride in China.

When I started living with the Chinese man I was sold to, I thought of escaping after six months. I just did what the Chinese man wanted without thinking about birth-control—I never had proper sex education. Two months later, he and his family took me to a hospital for a pregnancy test. I was pregnant. I am so sorry to my daughter for this, but after I got pregnant was so miserable and I felt like I was stuck in this situation because of the baby. I knew that I couldn’t escape until I gave birth to my daughter and raised her for a while. I was not happy, but the Chinese man and his family were. I am very sorry to my daughter for how I felt about having her back then, but the pregnancy was not what I wanted and I didn’t love the Chinese man. I actually tried to abort the baby by jumping down from a high tree many times but it didn’t happen.

I ended up having a daughter and raised her for two years before I escaped.


When I was still raising my daughter and living with the Chinese man and I was losing hope about my life, the North Korean broker who sold me into marriage got back to me and introduced me to some people who later connected me to LiNK’s network. She told me that she felt really bad for selling me to the Chinese man but she had to do it to survive in China as a North Korean herself. When she told me about going to South Korea and life there, I felt like that was my last chance to have my life back again. At that point, I was no longer breastfeeding and my baby had started to talk, so I thought the Chinese man’s parents could take care of her. I decided to leave for South Korea.

I was so sad to leave my two-year-old daughter in China.

Before I left, I thought of taking her with me, but she was still very young and I was not sure if I was going to make it to South Korea safely so I didn't want to risk her life.

To this day I feel guilty and sorry about having left her so I could have freedom and better life. I know my daughter has been hurt a lot by my leaving.


Before I started moving to get out of China I stayed with some other defectors before I got connected to LiNK's network. At the time, I cried every day thinking of my daughter. Even when I was sleeping in the house, I kept waking up to see if my little daughter was sleeping well on my arm and realized that she was not with me anymore.

I didn't want to cry in front of other defectors, so I cried behind a curtain and I found another North Korean woman crying there because she also left her child. We ended up hugging each other and crying together.

Since I resettled to South Korea a few years ago, I have been talking with my daughter through online video calls as often as possible. She is doing well and is now in elementary school, but I can tell she has been so hurt by my absence in her life. It breaks my heart when she asks me why I am not with her. Whenever there is homework about family or whenever her teacher asks her to bring her mom, she gets so sad and I feel so helpless and remorseful. I plan to visit her in China on one of my summer breaks from college.

It is so ironic because I was so hurt a lot by my mom for leaving me and my family when I was a little kid and I did the same thing to my own daughter.

Now I understand why my mom had to make such a decision...Hopefully there will be a day my daughter can understand and forgive me.

URGENT: North Korean Refugees At Risk of Forced Repatriation

November 8, 2023

A Call for Advocacy and Action from LiNK’S CEO, Hannah Song

There are currently large numbers of North Korean refugees being held in detention in China, including a group of individuals who were caught earlier this year while trying to escape through LiNK’s networks. As of last month, the Chinese government has started forcibly sending them back to North Korea where they are at risk of torture, imprisonment in horrific forced labor camps, and even execution.

A North Korean mother grappling with Chinese police as she seeks asylum at the Japanese consulate, 2002. Forced repatriations have been happening in China for decades.

This comes after the North Korean government has slowly reopened the country’s borders. During the pandemic, extreme lockdowns and increased security effectively brought forced repatriations to a temporary halt. At the same time, Chinese authorities continued to arrest and detain North Korean defectors, waiting for the opportunity to send them back. UN Special Rapporteur on North Korean human rights, Elizabeth Salmon, estimated this number to have reached 2000 people.

On October 13th, in response to media reports that Chinese authorities had forcibly repatriated around 600 North Korean refugees, the South Korean government confirmed that “a large number” of North Koreans had been sent back.

We are deeply concerned about this situation and the imminent repatriation of more North Korean refugees, including specific individuals we have confirmed are currently in detention.  We are closely monitoring these cases and continue to advocate directly with 10 other governments, the EU, and the UN on this issue. In September, LiNK also signed an open letter to China’s President Xi alongside civil society organizations, calling for humanitarian protection for North Korean refugees.

Right now, this issue needs more attention. The Chinese government needs to know that the world is watching and that North Korean refugees must be treated with humanity and dignity.

The Chinese government has 276 embassies and consulates representing their interests around the world, more than any other country. Please contact the embassy or consulate where you live, and also the Chinese mission to the UN, through email and social media to send a simple but direct message of concern and support for North Korean refugees.

Here's What You Can Do:

Copy, and feel free to edit, the template letter below, and email it to the Chinese Foreign Ministry via the Chinese embassy or consulate where you live, and also the Chinese mission to the UN:

United States
DC: [email protected]
NY: [email protected]
LA: [email protected]
SF: [email protected]
Chicago: [email protected]

South Korea: [email protected]
Australia: [email protected]
Canada: [email protected]
France: [email protected]
Germany: [email protected]
Japan: [email protected]
UK: [email protected]

Chinese missions to the UN
Chinese mission to the UN in New York: [email protected]
Chinese mission to the UN in Geneva: [email protected]

If your country is not listed above you can find it by googling “email Chinese embassy [your country]".

Template Letter to Chinese Foreign Minister:

Dear Minister Wang Yi,

I am writing to express my concern about the large number of North Korean escapees who are currently in detention in China, and the risk of them being forcibly sent back to North Korea to face torture, horrific conditions in forced labor camps, and potentially even execution.

Such treatment would clearly be inhumane from any standard of basic decency, but since China is a signatory to the Refugee Convention and Convention against Torture, there is even more obligation and expectation for Chinese authorities to facilitate an individualized determination of refugee status and humanitarian protection for North Korean escapees in China. Failure to do so damages the image of China and the reputation of the Chinese government around the world..

I appeal to your good conscience, and the sympathy of Chinese people for North Koreans facing horrific abuse, in asking your government to stop forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees and instead treat them with the humanity and dignity that any person in this world deserves.


Twitter (X) Users:

Additionally, you can tweet at the Chinese Foreign Ministry using this template tweet: 

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. The Chinese government is taking advantage of this diverted attention to quietly send North Koreans back, and it will quietly continue to do so. This is the time where we need strength in numbers and Allies around the world to clearly and firmly call out their inhumane actions.

Thank you for standing with the North Korean people.

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