“We all knew there was no hope for anything to get better in North Korea,’’ she told me. “Sometimes we’d say, ‘Hey, if we crossed the river we’d be in China, but there are too many soldiers.’ ’’ Song-hee also knew that, if she crossed the border, she could be picked up by the Chinese police and sent back to face sentencing in a labor camp. The customary term is anywhere from six months to three years. But her friend had a relative living in China, and contacts who knew the best places to cross. “I decided if I did not take this opportunity I might not have another,’’ Song-hee said.
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