Portrait: North Korean Orphan Care in China Part 2

KyungTae walking near his home in Northeast China.

KyungTae walking near his home in Northeast China.

The following is an excerpt from our Orphan Growth Fund update we sent late in 2017. The Orphan Growth Fund is a subscription program that Crossing Borders runs. All funds donated to OGF are earmarked to benefit of half North Korean children like KyungTae, whose story is below.

“Betrayed Families”

After being released from prison, YA befriended a young woman who shared her story: she had run away to China and been abused by the man who bought her. After being abused, she had gone to the police station herself to be repatriated to North Korea.

As the 26-year-old kindred spirit confided in YA her desire to escape and cross the border again, YA in turn opened up about her plans to be reunited with KyungTae and eventually move to South Korea.

Despite the suspicions of a kind HwaKyo, a term to describe a Chinese national born in North Korea or legally married to a North Korean, YA insisted on trusting her new friend with hopes, dreams and even details of her contacts along the North Korean “Underground Railroad.”

When YA went to a neighboring city to call her “sister” in China, she was ambushed and immediately arrested. Her friend had been an informant for the “bowibu,” a secret police force dedicated to tracking and hunting defectors.

These types of traps are often accompanied by close government surveillance of “betrayed families” such as YA’s. The branding of “traitor” can often extend to the family members of defectors. Earlier in 2013, YA’s older brother had also attempted escape across the Tuman river and was captured. The family left behind had since been shunned by the village and YA’s mother’s protruding bones and sallow face are explained by their rusted rice cooker—there hasn’t been any food to cook.

KyungTae (second from right) with other North Korean orphans.

KyungTae (second from right) with other North Korean orphans.

Hope for the Future

After YA’s deportation, KyungTae and his father struggled. Both loved YA and cried upon news that she had been deported without being allowed to say goodbye. At 67 years old, the elderly father, could no longer work to provide basic necessities, let alone support KyungTae’s education. KyungTae, who was only 10 when his mother was deported, retreated into silence and became withdrawn.

As we await more information on YA’s well being in the labor camp, as well as the possibility of early release through a bribe, we have set up a home sponsorship with a family and a member of Crossing Borders staff to host KyungTae in a town an hour away from his father so he can continue his education.

KyungTae is now about 17 years old. He has not seen his mother since July 2009 and on top of classes and other challenges typical to a teenager his age, KyungTae confronts the daily challenges of being a half North Korean child.

But in recent years he has been changing and light is returning to his life. He still misses his mother but he is now moving toward adulthood. Recently, he was selected for a work-study program at his school. He is studying to become a mechanical engineer. A company paid to have him work at a factory in Southern China. When he returned home to his father, KyungTae proudly handed him about $100 USD. His father broke down in tears. KyungTae is turning 18 next year. We are still waiting for his mother to be released from prison.

These children’s lives and their stories often echo some of the most painful aspects of the refugee experience. And yet, through our ministries and your support, KyungTae and other Orphan Care children have also found the unending love and redemption through their faith.

For more information about the Orphan Growth Fund, click here.