Two young women, Mira and Jiyun, recently escaped an apartment in China where they were held captive for many years. They had been sold for sex by the very men they’d trusted to help them escape North Korea.
Mira had been held in the apartment for the past five years and Jiyun for the past eight, where they were both forced to perform as webcam girls for pornographic websites. The man in charge of the women referred to himself as “the director”
The two had both trusted a broker to get them across the North Korean border. Mira, who couldn’t afford the high prices, agreed to be ‘sold’ to do work until she paid off her debt. She then claims that she was under the impression that this would be a restaurant job.
Mira, who was 22 at the time she defected, had been beaten and controlled by her father, who was a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea. He enforced her sleeping schedule and monitored the media she was allowed to consume.
Jiyun was only 16 when she defected in an attempt to earn money in China so that she could help her family out of poverty. She too was tricked by the broker that helped her escape, and told she would not be doing webcam work.
When she arrived and met the director, she was told that she was “too dark and ugly,” and the man tried to send her back to North Korea. As much as she feared the horrors of sex trafficking, she feared returning to her home country even more. She had risked everything, including her life, to escape.
The 2018 Trafficking in Persons report by the U.S. State Department has listed North Korea as one of the worst nations for human trafficking.
Mira and Jiyun were put into the same room after Mira’s first roommate escaped. Here is when they began to plan their second escape, but they knew it wouldn’t be possible on their own.
Over the next several years, the women consoled each other in times of need, only being let outside once every six months. At first they believed they may be able to work hard enough to earn their freedom, but they quickly realized freedom would never come.
Their only hope came in the form of Pastor Chun Kiwon.
Kiwon had spent more than two decades aiding North Korean defectors and was told of Mira and Jiyun by a long-time client of Mira. A communication app was installed on Mira’s computer remotely so they could speak with Kiwon. The goal was to get Mira and Jiyun to South Korea.
It took more than a month for the escape to be planned.
In the dark of the night, Mira and Jiyun shimmied down from their window along the knotted rope they had fashioned from their bedding. They spent many sleepless nights as they travelled across China with Kiwon’s volunteers, spending nights on trains, making a 5-hour scramble over a mountain, and driving 27 hours to the South Korean embassy.
Today the women are beginning their process of resettlement in South Korea, hoping to live a normal life at long last. It is their hope to learn English and become tour guides.
Mira and Jiyun are two of almost 1,200 defectors that Pastor Chun Kiwon has helped find safety.
Featured Image by Random Institute on Unsplash
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