A North Korean dissident made a terrifying escape from Kim Jong-un’s regime aged just 15 after thugs arrested her mother and beat her until she signed a forgery confession.
Evelyn Jeong, 24, also spent 10 months in a prison hell as a teenager before she and her mother were finally reunited.
Speaking to The Sun Online, Evelyn gave a fascinating insight into life growing up in tyrannical Kim’s secret communist dictatorship.
“We were reasonably well off, by North Korean standards,” she said.
“I was born in a city close to the Chinese border in a middle-class family. Our house was quite nice.
“My mother was a businesswoman who traveled back and forth between China and North Korea for trade. »
Even after his parents separated, his mother was able to raise him on her own, bringing fashion-crazy Evelyn clothes from China.
Photos from Evelyn’s childhood show her in elementary school in North Korea in 2003, and her with two women who worked for her mother.
However, that all changed when new restrictions on the sale of goods from overseas to North Korea were introduced, and Evelyn’s mother was now an outlaw.
Needing to support her daughter as a single mother, she continued to cross the border illegally, until one day Kim’s police caught her – sending her to hellish prison.
“A government van pulled up and men got out, grabbed her arms and dragged her,” Evelyn said.
“She never came home that day. We had no idea what had happened. We haven’t heard anything for a month. »
In total, Evelyn’s mother spent four years in the horrific prison.
“She doesn’t like to talk about prison too much,” she said.
“My mother is very small. When I visited her, I was shocked to see that her body was swollen and battered. »
In prison, Evelyn’s mother was beaten by Kim’s secret service and forced to sign a false confession, under threat of further torture.
When she was finally released, she wanted her and Evelyn out of North Korea at all costs.
At the end of 2013, aged just 15, Evelyn escaped from the Hermit Kingdom to China.
Coming from North Korea, China seemed like another world. She was shocked by the neon lights in the cities – “it was like heaven! – and amazed to have running hot water.
She was able to indulge her love of fashion and take trips to spas.
In China, she discovered that people ate white rice, while in North Korea they were forced to subsist on cheaper corn noodles.
She was also exposed to films from China, South Korea and the United States for the first time.
However, his troubles were far from over.
A government van pulled up and men got out, grabbed her arms and dragged her
With China unsafe for North Korean exiles, it continued its dangerous journey alone through Laos and Thailand.
She crossed mountains and traveled by boat and bus.
At the age of 16, in Thailand, she applied for a travel visa to the United States.
She was forced to spend 10 months in a Bangkok horror prison while her visa application was being processed.
“Between 200 and 300 people” were crammed into a large dormitory-like room, she said.
She made a fence around her small sleeping area using bottles to try to maintain some privacy.
“I missed my family and I cried a lot,” she continued. “It was also the first time that I had met so many foreigners. The prison was full of international tourists, including some from the UK. »
As bad as it was, she noted, at least it had running water, which was better than in North Korea.
Eventually, at age 17, she was able to move to the United States on her own, where she was placed with a foster family in Colorado.
There she went to an American high school and tried several foods for the first time, including cinnamon apple pie.
“My host family was very strict,” she said. “They were also vegetarians, which I found strange.
“The first year in the United States, I cried a lot. But I was able to call my mother. I found a lot of technology confusing, like vending machines. »
Evelyn says she can never return to North Korea until the Kim regime falls.
Now finally reunited with her mother in South Korea, she can live a free life, posting regular updates on her Instagram page.
“In North Korea, there are so many restrictions in everyday life,” she explained.
“You can’t dye your hair. Fashion is very formal. Everyone wears black and white or beige.
“There are no jeans or bright colors. »
She also had no idea of the growing outside world.
“I didn’t even know where the UK was,” she said.
Evelyn wonders how much her hometown has changed and wishes “Kim’s regime will fall soon”.
“I still have a mind map of North Korea in my head,” she said. “I miss my home and my friends, but I know I can’t go home anymore. »
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I fled North Korea at 15 after Kim’s henchmen grabbed my mum from the street, beat her and threatened to execute her – Reuters News in France and abroad