Hyeonseo Lee grew up in North Korea, with the impression that she lived in the “greatest country in the world”. However, when famine of the 1990s struck North Korea, Hyeonseo learned the dark secrets of her country. Family members were starving and constantly being oppressed. So she decided to escape at 14 years old to begin a life in hiding in China.
Years later, Hyeonseo settled in her new home in South Korea, but was caught sending money to her family in North Korea, which is a capital crime in her home country. To save her family from imprisonment, Hyeonseo traveled back and decided to rescue them. They set out on a conquest to travel through China to Laos, where they could seek refuge.
Throughout her journey, Hyeonseo had to pay off bribes to cross country borders and fines to release her family when imprisoned. When her family was imprisoned again, she had no money left to release them. Having lost all hope, Hyeonseo met a stranger who was willing to pay for the release of her family and other North Koreans. When she asked the stranger why he helped her, he simply said:
“I’m not helping you, I’m helping all North Koreans.”
Hyeonseo’s story of survival and hope is incredible, and is a reminder to the world that with kindness in our hearts, we can help others and ultimately make a difference in this world.