“Six Fails Seven Tries, I Came Here because I Did Not Want to Die”

[imText1]North Korean defector boy Sol’s story has been spread through the internet touching many people’s hearts.

Sol’s real name is Byun Jong Hyuk of age 18. His story, a story of a North Korean boy who attempted his first defection when he was 12 years old, left indescribable impression in the readers’ hearts.

Byun, who The DailyNK met in September 8 started his talk by saying, “I came here because I did not want to die.”

Perhaps those who have never crossed the border between death and life would not understand his short yet so clear and earnest expressions. He did not say he came following his dream but because he did not want to die. How frugal and sincere his expression is!

He defected seven times and was arrested six times. He succeeded in setting his foot on the South Korean soil on his seventh attempt.

Byun became an active member of a youth employment education institute’s performance music team called, “Recycled (Things) Imagination Play Team.” While he was active, he wrote his personal story on the team’s internet homepage, and unexpectedly it started to receive attention.

He does not write about the difficulties he faces in the process of adjusting to the South Korean societies, which many defectors do no hesitate to talk about. In his stories, the readers discover how a boy makes himself of a person he wants to be. We could give him A+ for adjustment. It seemed as his unique survival skill.

The members of the “Recycled (Things) Imagination Play Team” make instruments with recycled things, play them with their body, and perform in the public for free. Byun says, “I felt like I was reborn when I made instruments and did performances.”

Byun’s childhood was a continuation of hardships. His parents divorced. He spent entire weeks starving with only drinking water. She stole food from farms. When he was caught he was beat up almost to death.

▲ Byun Jong Hyuk performancing

Back to North Korean for His Little Brother

Byun crossed the border for the first time when he was twelve years old. Although he was alone, he says he was no afraid. He went to China, then he went back to North Korea to bring his brother out.

In China, Byun and his brother lived in an orphanage. Then Byun attempted return to North Korea to meet his older sister. On the way, he got arrested by the Chinese police. His younger brother escaped from orphanage alone, and was never heard of since then.

Byun says the only motivation for him to return to North Korea despite the fear of arrest and forced repatriation was longings for his family.

Byun’s eyes soon became teary when he mentioned his brother. “I was not going to talk about my brother because it hurts me so much. I regret so much about how I did not treat him nicely while we were still living together.”

He soon recovered his emotions by saying, “I know that he is alive somewhere. We will meet someday without a doubt.”

My Survival Skill, Audacity

With his brother in his heart, he made into South Korea after all sorts of hardships. “It was the best moment of life when I stepped my foot on the land I dreamed of for so long.”

When asked about his life in South Korea, “I adjust well wherever I go, so I don’t have much difficulties. Above all, what I like the most is the fact that I do not have to live in fear of arrest like when I was in China.”

Byun says he has part time job at a gas station. “People who works with me do not know that I am from North Korea. It is not like I tried to hide it, but I don’t feel obligated to tell them. It recently started this job, and I think it will be a god experience for me.”

Byun is planning to enroll at a school run by a church organization this October. When asked whether he will not feel lonely since he would have to live alone, he answered, “I do not worry about that. I will go and all I want to do is study hard.”

“After I pass the national high school equivalent level exam, I would like to attend theological school. My dream until now was to become a singer. I do not know my real talent, but I will try my best.”

We sincerely wish many other defector youth could share Byun’s blunt energy (in Korean terms, “audacity”).

Questions or comments about this article? Contact us at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.