DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Moon Choe escaped North Korea 18 years ago when dictator Kim Jung Un’s father ran the country with an Iron Fist.
He was 19 at the time.
So now, when he watches the news and sees his homeland’s ruler launching missiles and threatening the United States, he’s not surprised.
Speaking through an interpreter, Choe said, “In my opinion, he’s acting crazy.”
After fleeing, he lived in China for more than 15 years, then in Thailand for ten months, before coming to Dallas.
He shared his story of how he was tortured and how he was able to break free.
After high school, Choe said he had to work in a coal mine, but that the government didn’t keep its promises. “I was supposed to get a wage, money, but the economy was so bad, they couldn’t pay me. I couldn’t support myself or my family. They were supposed to give us food, a ration, but they couldn’t do it. That’s why I went to the river to get my food.”
One day authorities chased Choe down and tortured him.
They tied him up for three days with his arms stretched behind his back.
“Your blood, it’s not circulated. Your hands turn to black, and you feel numb.”
He said when they threatened to throw him into prison, he knew he had to escape.
“I can not imagine what is happening in prison.”
Thus, Choe walked for two days from the southern part of the Pyung An province to Pyung Sung, where he boarded a train to Musan, a city along the northern border with China.
He then swam 15 meters across the Tuman River into China.
It’s something he said he wouldn’t be able to do today. “It’s really hard to swim like 20 years ago. Nowadays, there are guards that are shooting the people when they try to swim and escape North Korea.”
He last spoke with his family in June of 1999.
“Back then, I did not ever imagine that was going to be the last goodbye.”
Since Choe escaped, he said he doesn’t know if his family has been tortured. “I do have a wish… That my family remaining in North Korea, they can be freed of this terror.”
Aside from the news, Choe said the only thing he knows about North Korea is from a pastor who still frequently visits there.
While news accounts show North Korea’s soldiers marching and weaponry, the pastor recently told Choe that he has seen an increasing number of beggars on the streets.
Choe hopes to become a U.S. citizen next year. He is learning English and wants to become an engineer.
For now, he’s earning a living by driving for Uber.
Follow Jack on Twitter & Facebook: @cbs11jack