“Many people want to cross, but so many were caught,” Chae said. “You don’t know what to do, what’s out there, how to survive.”
Her sister later made her way to the border, but was too scared to cross.
Chae could continue her surreptitious life in Yanji until family members, perhaps even her children, could join her. She wants them to see that there is a bigger world.
However, she thinks she will try to find a way to reach South Korea, where she could claim asylum and earn more money, she said.
She fears falling sick in China, or being caught and deported. Even her in-laws do not know where she is, for fear that the whole family could be punished for her illegal departure.
“My children don’t understand. They sent me a letter and said they know my spirit is still clean. They wrote me the words of a song they know I like about Kim Jong-il,” she said, singing a verse in a soft, sweet voice.
“I know what image they want to create in my mind. They say they know that I am not bad and I am here because life is hard in our country, not because I’m contaminated. But I have changed. When I first came people would say bad things about our country and I would tell them to shut up. Now I start cursing it with them,” she said.