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'I had to get out or die': North Korean defector reveals brutal horrors of Kim Jong-Un's sadistic regime

Mirror logo Mirror 9/05/2017 Christopher Bucktin

Credits: Reuters © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Reuters Kim Chung-Seong’s life reads like the type of story found in the fiction section of a sadist’s library.

By the age of 27 he had been brutally beaten, thrown in prison, left to starve, witnessed cold-blooded killings of children, forced into becoming a spy and left hours away from his own execution.

But today, after an incredible escape from the clutches of North Korea ’s brutal regime, Chung-Seong thinks it is he who is the lucky one.

For while he is now free from merciless Kim Jong-un , he lives in constant fear for the family and friends still hunted by the evil dictator’s army for his defection 13 years ago.

“The Kim regime never forgets,” he says.

“The leadership may pass down from one generation to another but so does their evil.

“I saw first-hand how the most harrowing of atrocities that will haunt me until the day I die.

“There were mass public executions in which everyone was ordered to attend including children as young as five years old.

“I watched one young girl beaten to death after the authorities accused her father of committing crimes when all he was doing was simply trying to sell things to feed his family.

“Millions of people there are deprived of any food. Thousands die through starvation.

“I had to get out, or I too would have been killed.”

Credits: Phil Harris/Daily Mirror © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Phil Harris/Daily Mirror

Chung-Seong spoke as tensions between North Korea and America continued to grow with both threatening military action unless the other backs down.

Today he took part in South Korea’s crucial general election which saw liberal Moon Jae-in win the country’s leadership.

The country’s focus has been led by the ballot called after a huge corruption scandal brought down their former leader.

Mr Moon is set to change course on North Korea, with the new leader wanting to increase contact with the rogue regime.

The victory could pave the way for closer ties with Kim Jong-un, which defectors like Chung-Seong hope will see them reunited with those they left behind in the North.

His story - although not unique - is one of incredible triumph evading the dark forces of Kim Jong-Un’s father Kim Jong-il ’s evil dictatorship to walk barefoot hundreds of miles to freedom.

And while the 41-year-old admits he escaped evil he feels nothing but pain knowing that the same evil still thrives in his homeland as he enjoys his freedom in South Korea.

At the age of 20, Chung-Seong was literally a poster boy for Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s father.

Credits: Phil Harris/Daily Mirror © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Phil Harris/Daily Mirror

Adored by thousands of young girls he was a singer in the then Supreme leader’s official band.

“Every hour of the day we would be ordered to sing gushing songs about Kim Jong-il that would be piped nationwide and played through speakers,” he explains.

“I’d be woken at any time of night to perform. It could 2am, 3am, 4am or 5am. It didn’t matter.

“They wanted to keep reinforcing their message how great the Supreme leader was while maintaining there was no dissent.”

But struggling to survive on the little money he made Chung-Seong turned to selling any small bits of metal he could find, including copper cabling, on the black market to earn extra money for his family.

In 2001 he was caught by Kim’s secret police, thrown in prison and told he would be shot at dawn the next day for dissent.

Such executions are carried out publicly, often in capacity-filled stadiums, by firing squad, although many former employees of the state are killed with anti-aircraft guns in order to send a message to others.

Offences which attract the death penalty include watching South Korean movies, distributing pornography, owning a mobile phone or being in possession of a bible.

Those whose lives are spared are sentenced for years to the country’s ruthless labour camps often enduring months of torture while inside.

“They stripped me of almost everything other than my trousers and threw me in a makeshift cell,” explains Chung-Seong.

“I was to be killed the next day.”

But following a mistake by a guard, he was able to escape through an unlocked door before running under the cover of darkness barefoot into the night.

Following his breakout his family’s home was raided by secret police, trashing it as they searched for the fugitive.

His parents and two brothers fled the property which was later razed to the ground.

Chung-Seong trekked more than 100 miles north of the North Korea capital Pyongyang, sleeping through the day and moving through the night to avoid being captured, to reach the Chinese border.

For days he walked over treacherous terrain, avoiding any roads before then swimming across the heavily patrolled Yalu River to safety.

“My feet were cut to pieces while my hands were to the bone through climbing but I had no other option,” he says.

“It was either keep going or be killed.”

For the next three years, Chung-Seong began to rebuild his life close to the Chinese city of Dandong doing odd jobs to survive.

But in 2003 his desperation to see his family became too much and he made the hazardous journey back to his homeland.

For 15 days he stayed in North Korea before his fears saw him turn back to China.

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But as he crossed the border, Chung-Seong was picked up by the Chinese military and threatened with immediate deportation into the hand of Kim’s border patrols.

“I knew if they sent me back, I’d be killed,” he says.

“They wouldn’t do it the following day this time, though - they would do it there and then.

“I pleaded with the Chinese to let me stay. They handed me over to what I can only describe as their CIA and after hours of interrogation, they offered me a way out.

“They said if I was to become a spy for them I would be allowed to stay.

“I didn’t need long to think and agreed almost immediately.”

No sooner was Chung-Seong moved into his temporary accommodation than he was on the move escaping again.

Now adept at travelling through the night, he set out, once again in bare feet, to make the 1,600-mile journey to the safety of Vietnam.

“I got there any way I could, it took me months,” he adds.

“I hid in the back of lorries, begged for lifts, walked hundred of miles just so I was never picked up again.

“I’d said to myself I’d rather die than go back.”

After months, Chung-Seong finally managed to make his way to the Chinese/Vietnamese border crossing in 2004.

Months later there was a resettlement effort by South Korea which saw him, along with 460 other North Korean defectors, flown from Hanoi to Seoul to start new lives.

Since arriving in South Korea, Chung-Seong has married and gone on to have two children.

He now works as a church pastor as well as hosting a radio show in which he defiantly sends a mix of gospel music and news into North Korea which is strictly banned by the regime.

“They want to keep everyone in the dark about the world, religion and the truth about its leaders,” Chung-Seong adds.

Credits: Reuters © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Reuters

North Korea strictly bans access to outside information, but a growing number consume illicit media, including South Korean TV dramas that show the prosperity of life across the heavily fortified border, via contraband USB sticks and DVDs smuggled from China.

It is also how Chung-Seong now stays in touch with the family he left behind.

“Smuggled Chinese phones are a lifeline to my family and me,” he explains.

“Many people use them as North Korea bans any form of electronic communication they can’t control.

“The phones work on a Chinese network making it difficult for them to be traced.

“If they were ever found out, whoever had one would be executed immediately.

“There would be no trial.”

Asked about the current threat of war, Chung-Seong is hopefully it will be avoided but is hopeful Kim Jong-un will be toppled.

“I hope the Americans take him out,” he said.

“If they fired one bomb I hope it would be on him.

“He has to go otherwise North Korea will never be free.

“I hope one day the North and South will be reunited as one to live in peace as Germany once did.

“I pray to see it in my lifetime.”

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