The night I helped my mother escape North Korea | World news | The Guardian

Originally posted in The Guardian.

Hyeonseo Lee’s mother carries her, aged three, on her back

‘She had been the rock of our lives’: Hyeonseo Lee’s mother carries her, aged three, on her back

I set my phone to silent, dressed myself entirely in black and walked calmly and purposefully through the hotel lobby. Outside I hailed a cab and directed the driver to take me to the point where the town ended, about 200 yards from the river. There, at the end of a row of low buildings, was the derelict house among the trees where I was to meet my mother and brother. I crouched down behind an old garden wall and waited. The place was cold and damp and smelled of mouldering leaves and animal droppings. I peeped over the wall and saw North Korean border patrols passing on the opposite bank of the river. In the half-tones beneath the trees, I felt camouflaged.

The sunset looked ominous, a palette of murky reds and yellows. On the other side of the water Hyesan seemed lifeless, a city dug from rock, or an intricate cemetery. A place of ghosts and wild dogs.

Min-ho had told me he would lead our mother waist-high through the water and help her up one of the ladders on the Chinese bank. The water must be freezing.

I checked the time on my phone every minute for an hour. Night had fallen like a cloud of ash. I could see nothing on the other…

via The night I helped my mother escape North Korea | World news | The Guardian.

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