The two spoke through a translator for the event organized by senior David Tian with the help of alumnus Andrew Hong.
“I didn’t really fear death, because my dad died, my grandparents died, everyone was dying around me already—the hardest struggle for me was the feeling of being abandoned by my mom,” Eunju Kim said.
Kim said her father died of malnutrition and her mother left her alone for three days when she went out in search for food.
Eventually her family escaped to China, but a human trafficker took them in and sold them as slaves. Eventually they were caught and sent back to North Korea.
Jinhye Jo escaped from North Korea in 1998 after four failed attempts. Each time she was caught and sent back to North Korea.
In all she spent a total of 10 years in China. She lived a life in the shadows and could not attend school.
“I spent many days crying while looking out the window at students with the privilege of going to and from school,” Jo remembered. “There were times where I felt very bitter, and I thought, why was I born North Korean? Why do I have to die like this? Even if I died, would anyone care?” she said.
You can read how both eventually got out of North Korea for good in the Chicago Maroon.