Bora Choe is a 24-year-old North Korean escapee currently living in an undisclosed location in Auckland, New Zealand. She describes her experience living in North Korea as “hell” according to the New Zealand Herald. In addition, she doubts the regime will truly change even as Kim Jong Un meets with world leaders in the coming weeks.

Choe is 5’5” and is considered tall and beautiful in North Korea. She was chosen by the government to be a bride at the age of 14. Recently, the sex trafficking in North Korea has become more relevant, as it was revealed that the cheerleaders from the Winter Olympics are required to do sexual favors for members of the government. Government officials frequently visit schools to choose young women for things unbeknownst to them such as these sexual favors.

A young girl’s future is determined

According to the New Zealand Herald, Choe states, “Like the other girls I actually don’t know what they have chosen us for except that it is to work for the nation…As a young girl at that time, I felt happy and honored to be selected.” Once selected, the young girls go through extensive tests to truly measure their beauty such as their skin and health. Newstalk reports Choe was immediately disqualified when it was discovered her grandfather was Chinese and her mother had escaped to South Korea.

A person’s loyalty to the regime determines their success in the country as stated by Newstalk. If a person has any foreign family ties, they are immediately deemed disloyal and are forbidden to work at a regular job. Instead, they are forced to work in the labor camps doing things like street cleaning for no pay. Meanwhile, the girls who do pass the initial examination are put through to the next stage for a more in-depth exam that looked at things like virginity. If they pass, they go on to work for the government, or they are trained to be an actress, musician, or solider in the military.

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Choe’s escape to freedom

By the age of 20, Choe had made two escape attempts according to the New Zealand Herald. After her two attempts, Choe was able to successfully escape to South Korea with the help of a broker. To do so, she had to cross the shallow, yet turbulent Tumen River into China. Another broker took Choe to Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand before being flown into South Korea.

Once in South Korea, Choe felt alienated. Although South Koreans spoke the same language, The New Zealand Herald reports she would often get asked taunting questions like, “If North Koreans are hungry, why don’t they eat soil?” While fighting a battle of trying to adjust to her new life, Choe could only find part-time work at a Korean bathhouse and lived with 12 other roommates.

Ultimately, Choe met missionary Nara Lee with an organization called Love Your Neighbor Charity Trust. Lee wanted to give her a chance at a life where she would not be judged for who she was. Newstalk quotes Lee as stating, “English is important and also living in a society outside of Korea where [she] wouldn’t be judged.” As Choe has been given a second chance at her life, she wants to become a Bible teacher to spread her firm belief in God.

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