After her mother died, Eun-Young had no way to provide for herself. A friend showed her how to collect items on the beach and sell them. It was a meager way to make money for food. When asked if she had any help from adults in her community, Eun-Young simply replies, “No.” She was only 11.
Her life came to a crossroads when she was 13 and her father remarried. Eun-Young’s stepmother and stepsister moved in, making Eun-Young feel more like an outcast. She wanted nothing more than to leave home and flee North Korea.
After finding someone who would help her cross the border, Eun-Young packed a small bag, brought a picture of her mother and left.
Eun-Young crossed the Tumen River. The waters were high in the summer, reaching her chest, but she pressed on, hoping for a better life in China.
However, when she arrived, she was dealt a horrific blow: those who had helped her escape betrayed her. They gave her an ultimatum—become a sex slave or be traded into a marriage. With no other options, Eun-Young said it was a hard decision to make. She was just a child and feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders. She decided to be traded into a marriage.
In describing her spouse, Eun-Young says, “I didn’t know he was disabled and mute. He couldn’t speak. He was deaf … I was devastated.” She didn’t know the Chinese language. She couldn’t communicate with the man. She didn’t know where else to go. She again felt so alone.
She lived with the man for 11 years and gave birth to a boy. She says, “The only reason I could hold on in that time was because of my son. I felt like I finally had someone really close to me.”
Then one night, while browsing online, Eun-Young came across a North Korean chef who had escaped to South Korea. Eun-Young learned that she could legally go to South Korea. She reached out to the chef to get more details, and she was forwarded the information of a South Korean pastor.
The pastor was willing to help Eun-Young get to South Korea through Thailand, but he warned her: “It will be complicated. Is that okay?” Eun-Young agreed.
Her journey to South Korea was indeed complicated. She rode a train to Kunming, hiked over mountains into Laos and took a boat across the Mekong River. But she arrived safely in Thailand. During her journey, she remembered words from the pastor: “Pray to God that He will bring you safely.” Eun-Young had never prayed before, but she prayed then.
During her time in Thailand, she was invited to a Bible study. She says, “The pastor told me a lot of things. He told me that God is my Father and that I am God’s precious daughter. He told me that wherever I go, I can live confidently.”
The words she was hearing began to melt her heart. Eun-Young explains, “Before, my expression was always pretty hard. But from that point onwards, my face softened. My lips went up, like I was smiling. I didn’t want to be the only one who knew about God’s salvation and joy. I wanted to share it with others!”
Eun-Young accepted Jesus into her heart. And it was news she wanted to share with everyone. She stuffed her bag with Bibles before finally moving into South Korea. In describing the gospel message, she says, “It’s beautiful.”
With her son, Eun-Young has had a new beginning in South Korea. It hasn’t been easy, but she’s been able to find confident hope in God—she is His daughter.
A verse that has spoken to Eun-Young is Ecclesiastes 1:2, which says, “Everything is meaningless.” She looks back at her time in North Korea and saw how everyone was living for themselves. She says, “Back then, I was only thinking about money and the value of money, but my perspective has completely changed. Now, I see those things and materials as meaningless, meaningless, meaningless. God has changed my perspective.”
Eun-Young’s story is one of heartbreak, but also redemption. God carried her out of North Korea, through China, to Thailand, where she would hear about Him for the first time. She has been revitalized in spirit. She says, “Even though I am a North Korean refugee, I know that God is light. You get His light by believing. But if you don’t believe—if you give up—the light will disappear.”
Join us now in prayer for Eun-Young and her son.
Lord, Eun-Young lost her mother, was traded into a marriage and had no one to comfort her. But You were there, and You redeemed her story. Even through so much pain and loss, You brought this North Korean refugee by Your side. We ask that You bless her ministry going forward. Open doors for her to be able to share her story with others who don’t know You. Be with her son and help him acclimate to a new environment and structure. We can’t wait to see how You move in their lives next. Amen.
About the author
Tim Dustin writes for Global Christian Relief where he shares incredible stories of North Korean refugees with the Church around the world. Get the latest blogs and prayer requests at GlobalChristianRelief.org