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North Korean flees the country by cycling for 12 days through China to reach Mongolia

Park Young-jin braved dangers and the Mongolian cold to flee North Korea

A man who fled hardship and oppression in North Korea has revealed how he cycled for 12 days through China to freedom.

Park Young-jin, 24, was on his second attempt to flee last year when he packed a few essentials and rode away on his bike.

He faced extreme danger even in China, as the country refuses to grant refugee status to North Korean defectors and considers them illegal economic migrants.

The Chinese authorities arrest and deport hundreds of defectors back into North Korea, sometimes in mass immigration sweeps. Chinese citizens caught aiding defectors face fines and imprisonment.

“One time I was sent back to North Korea through a broker so I couldn’t trust anybody any longer. So when I came out to China again I got a map and a compass and a bicycle, I just went”, he told The Guardian.

“I prepared a little mini tent, a change of clothes, a little of the money I earned.

“I didn’t know how long it was going to take so I couldn’t bring food”.

At first, he said, if was fun - he felt “young and free”. But as he got closer to Mongolia and felt the temperature drop he realised “it wasn’t going to be that much fun”.

Eventually, when he reached Mongolia, Park was able to travel to South Korea, arriving around a year ago.

Since 1953, between 100,000 and 300,000 North Koreans have defected, most of whom have fled to Russia or China.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

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