top of page

Yoo, Pyung Hi


of dried pollack fish in an attempt to pose as a food trader. But the guards still didn’t believe me. Using all the energy and momentum I could muster, I crawled my way under the barbed wire fence to escape.    


 Making it to the other side, I realized that I did not know the route to South Korea at all. I had to pay a guide and asked to be taken to a boarding house that other anti-communist members and I had planned to meet up at.


I still think about that last moment with my family. My mom is hiding in a crevice, waving at me while I prepare to embark on a treacherous trek to freedom. Time shifts, filled with fear and yearning, and here we are. I am now 90. This is a 67 year old scar in my life.


Before leaving, I had told my mom that I would come back in 6 months after purchasing a house to take her with me. It’s been 67 years, not 6 months, and my promise remains unfulfilled.


I don’t know what happened to my mother, but all I have left is a broken promise I will never be able to keep.


What I wish for the most is to complete the tradition of pouring alcohol by my parents’ graves to cry and grieve – to touch the ground of my homeland once more. But I’m 90, and time slips like sand.


I wish for my fellow Korean American divided family members to get help from the American government and meet their family members. That is my only wish. What else would a 90 year old grandfather want?


I want to feel the soil of my homeland on my bare feet. I want to take my grandchildren and point to my parents’ graves and allow the roots of our family to live at least in the memories of the coming generations. I don’t know if that will come true. Is it impossible?


Here’s a beautiful scene to think about: the younger generations of both South and North Korea holding hands, walking throughout a united Korea with only peace and happiness to think about. We, the first generation are dying, but you, the younger generation, I hope, will reconnect with your fellow brothers and sisters in North Korea. Then, I believe, I will truly be at peace. 

My name is Yoo Pyung Hi, and I was born on September 16, 1925 in Ham Gyung Namdo, North Korea.


After the Victory over Japan Day, I was around 20 years old, and three years later, I was inspired to become a part of an anti-communist movement in North Korea. Soon afterwards, I was arrested, sent to prison camp, and tortured to the point that I could not use my arms and legs for a long time.


After recuperating, I knew that I could not live if I stayed in North Korea. I was under intense surveillance after my release. I was marked by my own homeland as a traitor and a potential threat. I was under watch wherever I went. In a sense, I had lost my freedom and identity. That was when I decided to defect to South Korea.


In order to leave, my uncle had to buy my ticket for me and pass it to me in secret since the train station was filled with watch guards.


My last memory of my mother is her waving to me while hiding in a ditch as I boarded my train. Even our departure was done in secrecy and fear, and I will never forget the moment I left behind my mother, father, older sister, and younger sister.


In my last stop, we were near the 38th parallel at the Jongkok Station. Because I was riding with other youth who were under suspicion of defecting, all of us were detained at the station. I had brought a bag full

bottom of page