“Michelle’s” face lit up when we asked about her hometown, Musan, North Korea. She described the fresh air, the pink azalea flowers that grew along the mountainside. Everything else about her past that she described to us was misery. We are hoping that, as a new part of our network, things can turn around for her.
Michelle was one of the hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees to flee her country because of the famine that killed an estimated 3 million people in the mid 1990s. She fled north into China with her mother in 1998 but awaiting her and so many others was a different form of misery.
North Korean women were trafficked en masse when they flooded into China in the wake of the famine. They were given no human rights and if caught, they were immediately sent back to a North Korean gulag. So they couldn’t call the police and tell them they were being trafficked. They were stuck.
Michelle and her mother were sold to different men in different cities.
The family who purchased Michelle was cruel. They treated her like a slave and made her work their farm all day and all night. As a result, she has severe back pain and an injured hip, which prevents her from working. We are supporting her with a $50 per month stipend.
Sick of her situation and weary from her injuries, Michelle fled her family but was caught again by a human trafficker and sold to another man, with whom she lives today. Her current husband is good to her, she told us. He allowed Michelle to reunite with her mother and they live together today.
In addition to Michelle’s monthly stipend, entering into our network means that she will be connected to a community of North Korean refugees. She will not be alone in her struggles and she will have people who she can relate to and share about her past trauma. She will have job training available to her as well so that she can pursue a different job that will not require pressure on her back. She will also have access to doctors and therapists that Crossing Borders sends into China to give her quality health care.