The night I helped my mother escape North Korea

Extracted from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee:

I set my phone to silent, dressed myself entirely in black and walked calmly and purposefully through the hotel lobby. Outside I hailed a cab and directed the driver to take me to the point where the town ended, about 200 yards from the river. There, at the end of a row of low buildings, was the derelict house among the trees where I was to meet my mother and brother. I crouched down behind an old garden wall and waited. … I peeped over the wall and saw North Korean border patrols passing on the opposite bank of the river.

‘I had not seen my mother in 11 years. In the half-light I saw a strained, old face and a body moving stiffly’

My phone was buzzing. Min-ho’s voice was fast and tense: “We’ve had a problem.” Quickly Min-ho explained that just as he and my mother had been about to cross they had walked straight into a border guard.

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