SEOUL — ; The teenage son of a North Korean woman who defected to South Korea initially refused to come and live with his mother in Seoul, saying he was ready to join the military to help "re-unify" the Korean peninsula, RFA's Korean service reports.
Choi Eun-sook, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was separated from her son in 1998 after she fled North Korea for a new life in the South. She told RFA that she managed to get news of Chol-rim by paying an ethnic Korean Chinese national to visit him.
"That person went to Hyeryong, met my child, and they had a picture taken in front of the Kim Jongsook Memorial Hall," Choi said. "My child wore the clothes I sent... In the picture he is taller than me."
According to Choi, the messenger said Chol-rim was planning to join the military in 2003. "My child grew up alone, by himself," Choi said. "I could not hold my tears. Then I made up my mind, that I will bring him out before he went into military service." She said that while the military used to get better food than the rest of the population in the past, many who had been on military service returned home weakened from malnutrition.
But Choi had a difficult task ahead, for her son had deeply absorbed the Stalinist state's ideological brainwashing, and official papers showed that his escapee parents were dead. "His mind was already red," she said. "How well Kim Jong-il had educated him."
Finally, Choi engineered a meeting with Chol-rim in Yanbian, just across the border in China. He recalls: "She kept saying...Hanguk [South Korea]...she kept saying it is a good place to live."
Initially Choi had told him she was living in Yanbian, but let the news sink in during a month's stay in China. "Then I realized...aha, she is trying to take me there... I said I wouldn't go," Chol-rim told RFA.
But Choi put her foot down, threatening to disown Chol-rim if he refused to follow her to Seoul. "I thought a lot," he said. "If I don't follow her, I may not see my mother ever again."
"If Korea is not unified...a man's life is short, one life goes fast...my mother who bore me...it would be painful not to see her again, so I made up my mind to go with my mother," Chol-rim said.
After escaping through many hardships and dangers in China and Mongolia, Chol-rim said he spent some time in a defector reception center in South Korea, preparing for his new way of life.
"It is so much fun," Chol-rim says of his new life outside the center. "When I am bored, I can play computer, I can read books, I can study. I eat food my mother prepares. I go to school...there are too many things to do."
"To be with my mother together...that is the happiest thing... It was my ultimate wish in North Korea that I could go to school, and eat meals prepared by my mother. Now that wish has been fulfilled, I am really happy," Chol-rim said.