Interview with North Korean Cave-Dwellers. 1.


2005.07.13
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RFA: How did you come to start living in the cave?

Kyung-il Sung (Husband): First, we went to a town and met new people. We told people we were North Korean escapees, and asked them to feed us and provide shelter for us in return for free labor. After that, we happened to meet a Korean Chinese who was a clerk of the Communist Party...We took care of his father-in-law for three years.

RFA: It sounds like you were doing all right in the town. Why did you decide to leave the town and go into the mountains? Was there a danger?

Danger of repatriation

Husband: As more North Korean people came to the town, more inspections took place. Other North Koreans were mostly single men, but I had a wife. I was so agitated I decided to go into the mountains. In the town, we had to turn off all the lights at 9 p.m. and had to lock the house. But after we went into the mountains, we did not have to do that any longer. At least, we did not feel agitated in the mountains.

RFA: How did you make your shelter and how did you find a place to dig a hole?

Husband: We followed a creek. When we followed water to the top of the mountain, we could see where the water was coming out of ground.

RFA: So did you dig a well too?

Husband: Yes we did. The place was untouched by humans. So we dug a hole and got rid of the mud on the top and put pebbles on the bottom, so that water would stay in the hole. And we built a house around an elm tree, next to the water.

Extreme hardship in the mountains

RFA: You said "house," but it was more like a hole that you dug. How did you do that?

Wife: Now we are sitting here and talking about the time when we built the house, but it was so painful then. We had to cut the trees and saw wood while we were hungry. We were never fed enough. But we thought we must live. The only thing we could think was if we failed to survive, we would die. We worked so hard to carry the logs and build a house with conviction in life.

Husband: We could not cut down trees around the house because people would easily find us if we did that.

Wife: We had to cut trees from far away.

Husband: We build a triangular house with the elm tree in the middle. So the middle part is high enough for us to put on our clothes with our backs bent...if we sat in the middle, we could sit up straight. It was uncomfortable.

RFA: You built a house on the slope and made it flat.

Husband: Yes. We put the excavated soil on the slope area, to flatten it. The house was not recognizable because we built it on the slope. We also planted a larch tree, to hide the house.

Trained in survival and camouflage

RFA: How do you know all the secrets of camouflage?

Husband: That is how North Koreans excavate a tunnel.

RFA: So you have excavated a tunnel in North Korea?

Husband: We receive training on excavating tunnels and making bunkers.

Original reporting by Jinseo Lee. RFA Korean service director: Jae-hoon Ahn. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.