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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Kim Seong Min

Interviewed June 23, 2024

In February 1996, I tried to escape from the port of Dalian [a major city and seaport in China’s Liaoning province] from China. As I was hiding, I was caught by the Chinese security police. At first I told them that I was seeking political asylum but they said that according to the North Korea-China treaty that they do not recognize asylum so I was sent to prison in China. I was heavily interrogated for forty days in Dalian. Then they sent me to a border town next to North Korea in a town called Taowen where I was held for eight more days as well as being interrogated.

I did not carry any identification with me so I did not reveal my real name or that I was a soldier. But the interrogators kept on beating me very hard for me to tell the truth. If they did not like what I had to say they beat me more. There are no words that can describe the pain. So in the end I told them my real name and that I was the writer from the 600/20 camp. They then sent me back to my military unit where I would face peer judgment, which is part of the military society. If it is the civilian society, it is called people’s judgment. I was sent by train back to the headquarters and there I broke the window and escaped. For nine days I would either walk or travel by ox carts back to the border area where I crossed the border and fifty days later I arrived in China.

For three years I stayed in China and those years I had a different experience, which was for the most part not an easy one. I was constantly being chased by the North Korean secret police and I also had to hide from the Chinese security police. We could not go to the South Korean embassy because the South Korean government was sensitive about what the Chinese government would say and hence did not accept us. We lived without and nationality and it was probably the worst form of existence. But in the end my uncle found me and flew to China where he made a counterfeit passport for me, which worked for me to arrive in South Korea. This was back in February of 1999.