Many North Koreans are amazed by life in South Korea, and that was no different for Ji Seong-ho, the remarkable young defector who made a special appearance at the State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Ji endured starvation, suffered severe injuries, lost loved ones, and experienced firsthand the Kim regime’s brutality before he left North Korea.
His journey to freedom was marked by pain, tears and incredible hardship.
When he finally reached South Korea, “it was beyond my expectations,” he revealed in an interview with The Daily Caller.
“I felt like I had traveled 30 years into the future,” he said commenting on the level of development in South Korea.
But, what shocked him most about life in South Korea was not the impressive advancements of an unshackled, free society; rather, it was the trash cans.
“When I was in North Korea, I dug through the trash but struggled to find food,” he explained, “In South Korea, I found trash cans full of food.”
“I thought, what has my life been? Is my life worth less than trash?” he recalled thinking at the time.
Ji was a young teenager during the Arduous March, a famine that killed around one million North Koreans.
As the leadership hoarded state resources, most of the country starved. He lost his grandmother to the famine, and starvation nearly cost him his own life.
To survive, he would slip on to freight trains and steal coal to trade at the street markets for scraps of food.
On one trip, he passed out and fell into a gap between the carriages. He woke to the train running over him, tearing large parts of his left leg and hand from his body.
At the hospital, the medical staff considered letting him die, but his mother begged them to save him.
They amputated his torn limbs without any anesthetic. His screams could be heard throughout the hospital.
He eventually learned to walk again using a pair of wooden crutches his father, who was beaten and murdered by the Kim regime, helped make.
To escape North Korea, where he was discriminated against and even tortured for his disability, he walked more than 1,000 miles to get to freedom in the South, where he was given prosthetic limbs to replace those he had lost in North Korea.
“My life changed,” Ji said, remarking that he felt good about his decision to leave his tragic homeland.
While he no longer needs them, he has kept his old wooden crutches. When the president told his amazing story at the State of the Union address Tuesday evening, Ji held them high in defiance of the Kim regime.
A version of this article appeared on The Daily Caller News Foundation website.
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