Spends Life in Hiding,
Finally Shot to Death
Guard Kills NK 17-Year-Old
Right at Mongolian Border
April 20 this year,
LFNKR received reports that a 20-year-old man was fatally shot
when Chinese border guards interrupted an escape attempt by 24
North Korean defectors as they were crossing the border into Mongolia
from Manzhouli, China.
Now RENK, a Japan-based NGO, has revealed that
the North Korean male killed on April 2 was not really 20 years
old, as reported by the Chinese authorities. In fact, he was only
17, and the Chinese authorities hurriedly cremated his body immediately
after the shooting. The boy’s ashes accompanied the remaining
NK refugees when they arrived in South Korea on May 18th. Read
more at RENK's website.
date, the South Korean government has refused to allow
the dead boy’s father or his younger sister to speak out
1998 -- Chol-hun and his younger
sister met Mr. Lee Young Hwa (RENK’s representative)
All photos supplied
The 17 Short Years of Lee Chol-hun
(name changed for security)
Born in Chongjing, Hamgyong-bukto, North Korea
All four members of his family escaped to China,
fleeing the widespread starvation. They had the good fortune to
find a kind Korean-Chinese farmer in the suburb of Yanji, Jilin
Province, who sheltered them. They then learned about the Japanese
NGO, RENK, who found Japanese foster parents for Chol-hun and his
younger sister Ok.
family was arrested by Chinese police. His parents underwent
severe interrogation, including beating. However, the Korean-Chinese
farmer paid a few thousand yuan for them, and they avoided repatriation.
His family was arrested again by Chinese police and repatriated
to North Korea. Chol-hun and his sister were released because of
their age, but their parents were sent to a detention center. Until
their parents were released, the two children stayed at a fishing
village where they helped with the fishing to earn food and a place
The family escaped from
North Korea again.
family moved from
Yanbian to relative safety in Heilongjang.
the family was fleeing another refugee-hunt by Chinese
police, the mother disappeared.
2, 2004 (around 1:00 AM)
was shot to death by Chinese border guard while trying
to cross the border into Mongolia with his father, younger sister
and other North Korean defectors. 17 were detained and 6 are still
was a foster child of RENK for six years. He and his sister
were supported by about 10 foster parents in Japan, who had been
sending money, books, stuffed animals and letters of encouragement.
of the foster parents, Kunihiko Nakagiri (56), who lives
in Osaka, still grieves. He said “Chol-hun was only 17 years
old and just starting his life. How I wish he had survived.”
foster parent, Shinsaku Kanzaki (77) regularly donated
15,000 yen from his pension money once every 3 months for Chol-hun
and his little sister. He said, “This was a tragedy! He wanted
to live, of course. I really resent how China ended the life of
this boy, who struggled so hard to survive for 17 years.”
has demanded an apology from the Chinese government.
Feb. 1999 -- Back together after going
through the arrest and release in China
Aug. 2000 -- Chol-hun still bears
scars from the third escape from North Korea following their
Early 2001 -- Moved to a Korean-Chinese
village in Heilongjang, looking for a safer place to hide.
Apr. 2003 -- With their father
in the village of Heilongjang
Mid-March 2004 -- In his last hiding
place. He has grown into a young man.
Mid-March 2004 -- At a Chinese
restaurant on the way to Mongolia. He ate two big bowlfuls
of Chinese noodles. Just after this photo was taken, his
father recalls telling him that they would finally be reaching
South Korea soon, and Chol-hun gave his biggest smile.