As a boy, Joseph Kim could only watch helplessly, he says, as he watched his father “wither and die” in the isolated country’s devastating famine in the 1990s, which led to the tragic disintegration of his once loving family.
Kim was 12 when his father died, and his mother and sister left for China to try to find food.
When his mom returned she was alone, having sold his sister to a man in the belief that she may have a better life, according to Kim’s account.
Kim, who now studies in New York, after himself escaping to China in 2006, urged his audience not to judge his mom harshly — as he still tries to track down his sister. “So many North Korean mothers are forced to make these kind of heartbreaking decisions.”
“This isn’t just my story, but the story of millions of North Korean people,” said 24-year-old Kim. Once orphaned, he said, he would wander the streets rummaging through trash cans. “Hunger is humiliation, hunger is hopelessness,” said Kim.