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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Park Sang Hak

Interviewed January 6, 2010

I never thought about coming to South Korea when I was younger. It was not my own decision to come here. My father brought me and my entire family to South Korea. He worked for a spy agency that specifically targeted South Korea, the same agency that dispatched Kim Hyun Yee to explode the Korean Air plane several years ago. My father would come to Seoul from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, and from several other cities in the region. He would come to South Korea to engage in intelligence business. In 1997 my father was part of an incident in South Korea that, if discovered by North Korea, would have sent my entire family to a concentration camp. Because of this risk we decided to escape from North Korea. So in 1997 I took my mother, brothers, and my sisters and we swam across the Yalu River and escaped into China. From there my father guided us on how to travel to South Korea. So essentially it was his idea to bring us to South Korea, and not my family’s.

Before we escaped, I was a student at Kim Chaek University where I was majoring in the IT related field. And after that I worked at the Kim Seong Il Youth Alliance. I was very lucky to escape North Korea with my whole family; my parents, my brother, and my sisters. There are other defectors, and the majority of the defectors escape from North Korea alone. The North Korean people want to join the freedom movement but they do not do so out of fear that they may jeopardize the safety of their relatives and family in North Korea. I was the son of an officer of the worker’s party so I belonged to a privileged class. I came from a high-class background in North Korea. I feel ashamed because of my situation when I compare myself to the other defectors of North Korea because they have escaped from North Korea just to survive. So I think that my case is very unique.

When I came here to South Korea I enrolled at Seoul National University and I was able to study different political theories. I was able to compare the difference between the North Korean system and the free democratic system of South Korea. I also restudied Kim Jeong Il and Kim Il Seong and I studied the South Korean presidents such as Lee Seung Man and Park Chung Hee. Even though I did have some knowledge about South Korea when I was in North Korea, the things that I learnt about North Korea were horrible and made me realize that the regime created by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jeong Il were bad systems. I could have lived a comfortable life as an intellectual in South Korea as a researcher at the Mobile Institute but I felt some responsibility.

As an intellectual I have the responsibility to be part of this movement and I think that it is my fate or destiny to be part of these activities. Overall, the main reason why I engaged in these activities was because I learned to be angry at the North Korean system. After we came to South Korea in April of 2003, we learned what happened to our relatives who were left back in North Korea. Our uncle was beaten to death by the security police and the three cousins we had, since their parents were killed, they had nowhere to go, and nowhere to turn to so they became gochebi [North Korean child-beggars.] And we don’t know whether they floated out to China or if they just died on the streets. So the entire family was guilty by association as judged by the North Korea regime. Learning that my father’s defection caused these murders left me feeling very angry.