People have tried to defect from North Korea in boats and have had very little success. Those who tried usually ended up as skeletons washed ashore on far-off beaches. However, this is the story of two girls in their 20s who managed to defect and are now settled in Auckland. They are among a group of five who have landed up in this country, courtesy of a Christian help group. Their stories give a brief glimpse into life in the hermit kingdom and the hardships that people have to endure. The New Zealand Herald has brought out the plight of these defectors who were lucky to escape from a lowly life that was awaiting them.

One of them faced a bleak future

The first defector was a girl who was slated to be groomed to become a slave for the political elite of North Korea. She was selected from her school when she was hardly 14 – the selection was based on her height and beauty. At that time, she was happy because she felt it was an honor to get a chance to work for her country. She was not aware of the nature of work that awaited her.

She was born in the capital of Hamgyong Province, which is the country's third-largest city.

After the preliminary selection, she had to undergo tests for assessment of her physical potentials. However, she did not make the grade because of her antecedents. Her grandfather was a Chinese, while her mother had defected to South Korea. That was the end of her dreams. She realized that she could never get employment, and would have to end up in a labor camp doing odd jobs without getting any pay.

She could not bear such hardships and decided to defect. It was a tedious process but she succeeded in her mission and is now in New Zealand.

The second girl was equally unfortunate

The second defector was another girl who was a victim of human trafficking. She was from North Korea and had been trafficked in China for four years before she got the opportunity to escape to New Zealand. Her mother had gone missing and was believed to be living in China.

The girl was only 17 at the time and she contacted a broker to help her find her mother.

However, the broker sold her into domestic slavery, where she worked for four years and faced hardships. She loved soccer, and even though she was selected to represent her city, she was denied the chance because her grandmother was from China. She wanted to join the Army but those dreams were also shattered due to the same reason.

Let us hope that these two girls find peace in their new environments and are able to rebuild their lives. Efforts are on to reunify the two Koreas and once that happens, the North could become more livable.

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