Youngae Ma, 53, is a North Korean defector who joined the North Korean army at 17, serving in the country’s State Security Department as an intelligence agent near the Chinese border.
She was responsible for gathering information about South Korea through collecting documents. Based in China, she was exposed to what she called “the outer world,” with radios, a wide variety of cuisine, and Christian churches. When she was found eating the free food offered at a church, she was arrested right away, she said.
Knowing that she would be sentenced to death, Ma decided to escape. She waited for the police car transporting her to slow, and when it did, she threw herself out and ran for her life in the blistering cold.
“I couldn’t feel my toes, I remember three of my toenails falling out while I was running,” Ma said. “I didn’t notice it until I realized that I was leaving a bloody track.”
Ma eventually made it safely to the South Korean Consulate General in Shanghai, where she was given a passport and was escorted to Seoul.
Ma made it to the U.S. and sells Pyongyang sausages to fund her mission to rescue North Korean defectors. She now runs The Kun Jip, in Palisades Park, New Jersey.
Ma is a U.S. permanent resident with a South Korean passport — one that she claims to have fought for more than five years to receive, citing political persecution in South Korea. Read more