Magazine

Apr 13, 2018

Most North Koreans who break out do so by crossing the river border. Reuters team photographed and interviewed some of those who made it to Seoul.

Escape from North Korea
1

A combination picture shows Ji Sung-ho, 35, (top) and his wooden crutches, in Seoul, South Korea, August 13, 2017. Sung-ho is from Hoeryong, near the border with China. He left North Korea in 2006 with a pair of wooden crutches. "I lived as a child beggar in North Korea. I was stealing coals from a train when I fell off and lost my leg and my hand. I had to bring the crutches with me. If I didn't have them, I wouldn't have made it here. The state doesn't help you in North Korea, and people who need crutches make their own. Mine are therefore not factory-made, so they're not perfect and break easily. I had several pairs of crutches but they all broke, and this was the last pair. I used these crutches for 10 years, until I was 25, when I arrived in South Korea. I would steal coal from moving trains and fall off, destroying my crutches. Or I would get beaten up by the police and they'd take and then break my crutches. When they broke, I would make new ones. When I had new ones, I could go back outside. When I first arrived in South Korea I thought about throwing them out. South Korea's intelligence agency gave me a prosthetic leg. My friends said I should throw the crutches out and not think about North Korea. They said I should show Kim Jong Il I was living a new life in South Korea and throw out everything I had from the North. Some asked if I got upset when I saw my crutches. But I couldn't just throw them out. To make my crutches, my friends had given me some wood that they had bought, and someone I knew in North Korea who had carpentry skills had made them. It was my father who added the final touches. There is a lot of love from my North Korean friends and family in these crutches. So I didn't throw them out. The South Korean government gave me some new crutches because the wood from my North Korean ones is hard and painful. But I still keep them, so as not to forget those memories." KIM HONG-JI/REUTERS

You may also like

  • World Bodypainting Festival...

  • Fields of flowers

  • The Photos Of 2018 Week 28

  • Russia 2018 World Cup Final:...

  • Celebrating 100 years of...

  • Inside Stalin’s secret...

Something to say? Use Facebook!

Or say it with Disqus!

comments powered by Disqus