“I was a North Korean national skier”: the life of Park Yun-hee, a former female soldier in the Escort Command

Inky darkness. A group of 10 to 15 smugglers appeared on the snow-covered Yalu River. The leader of the smugglers, carrying a 60-kilogram bag of metal, was a woman in her early 30s.

Her name is Park Yun-hee. A Labour Party member who joined the North Korean military escort command at the age of 13 and was a national biathlete. She currently works as a custodian at the Bocheon Museum of the Korean Revolution. His unofficial job is as a smuggler. For him, a 40kg pack was a schoolbag, and a 60kg pack was a daily routine. He once crossed the Yalu River with a 90kg bag.

Arrested three times for smuggling and sent to labour camps, he persisted in protecting his hometown and finally crossed the river for the last time on Lunar New Year 2013. His younger brother, who had been discharged from the 974th, Kim Jong Il’s pro-Korean unit, crossed the river with his sister. Ten years later, Park smiles as he describes his life in South Korea. Before coming to Seoul, Park’s life was not unlike that of many other North Korean defectors.

Sam Ji-yeon, girl skier

Park was born in 1979 in Cheongjin, North Hamgyong Province, but has no memory of the city. At the age of two, she moved with her father to Samjiyeon County (now Samjiyeon City) in Yanggang Province.

His father worked at the Social Safety and Security Inspection Office. He wore a security guard (police) uniform and looked good everywhere he went, but for 25 years, from the time Yoon-hee was born until 2004, when he left the army, he wore only the top rank (between lieutenant and captain). This was because he was assigned to the mission management office.

Still, her father insisted on the non-promotable position, saying, “There is no better job.” The Inspection Bureau operated three inspection camps, which were like inns for the regular inspections of revolutionary battlefields by security personnel across the country. Yun-hee’s father was rotated every few years between the camps in Wangjae, Bocheon, and Samjiyeon, where he fed and housed the powerful guards, so there was plenty of food at home.

Yunxi grew up not knowing hunger. There was plenty of rice and oil at home. Her father often brought home fruits and other edibles, such as dongs. When school teachers who had ration cards but couldn’t get rations came to the house, her father would exchange the almost worthless ration cards for food for the expedition camp. This raised Yunxi’s profile at school.

At the age of 10, while attending the People’s School, Yunxi began to learn to ski at the Samji Yan Student Boys’ Palace. There are now ski slopes in Masikryong, but at the time there was only one place in the whole of North Korea to compete, Samjiyeon Pillow Peak Ski Resort. There were only a few regions that produced skiers, including Samjiyeon, Jangjin, and Langrim.

When the winter competition season came, skiers from all over the country would flock to Samjiyeon. Young Yunxi loved the way they skied, so she was coaxed by her father into joining a ski class at the Student Boys’ Palace.

There, Yunxi excelled, and within a few years, she became the ace skier of the palace. He began to dream of bigger things: joining a professional sports team.

At the time, the only athletic organisation in North Korea with a ski team was the Kim Myong-su Athletic Organisation, which was part of the escort command. It was located in Samjiyeon, a small stream that flows down from Mount Paektu. It is considered a sacred place in North Korea because it is the site of the battlefield of the anti-Japanese Red Army, and the club was named after it. When Yun-hee was 14 years old, her father went to the coaches of the Lee Myong-su athletic team who came to train at Samjiyeon and asked if they would consider our daughter for the team.

The coach called Yun-hee over, took her for a few laps around the training ground on skis, and told her she was good enough to try out. At the time, there weren’t many skiers in North Korea, but the coach wouldn’t accept just anyone because his performance would depend on the kind of athletes he could develop.

Park Yoon-hee on Yudalsan Mountain in Mokpo in 2014메이저사이트, the year after she came to South Korea.

● Becoming a national biathlete

Lee Myung-soo’s organisation is part of the Escort Command, so joining the organisation is like joining the military. You also take an oath of enlistment. Yun-hee was 14 years old when she joined the KDF, wearing a boy’s tie, and her military career began at the same time.

Although the athletes were issued military uniforms, they were allowed to wear plain clothes when they went out into the city. Yun Hee attended school in the morning and trained in the afternoon. Lee Myong-soo’s gym, located in Kunjiri in Pyongyang’s Yongsong district, had about 300 athletes in three sports: football, marathon, and skiing.

The skiers were based in Pyongyang for half the year, but always travelled to Samjiyeon for six months of the winter season. They start training in November to prepare for domestic competitions: the Paektu Mountain Games in February, the Republican Championships in March, and the Mankyong Games in April. There were no financial rewards for winning, except for the prizes at the Republic of Korea Championships.

Two years after joining the team, Yun won a bronze medal at the 1995 Republican Championships. At the same time, he was named to the national team. His chosen sport was biathlon. During shooting training, he would fire hundreds of rounds, and one day he even fired 700 rounds.

But his efforts were not without reward. The mid-1990s were also one of the darkest periods for North Korean athletics. In August 1991, North Korean judoka Lee Chang-su defected on his way home from the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, and an enraged Kim Jong Il banned North Korean athletes from international competition for two years. Many prominent athletes were forced to retire from the sport. Rhythmic gymnast Lee Kyong-hee, who won three gold medals at the 1991 Universiade in Sheffield, England, also retired from the sport and defected to South Korea in 2007.

Just when she thought the rules for participating in international competitions had been lifted, Kim Il-sung died. After Kim Il-sung’s death in 1994, the phrase “Yuhun Kwan-chul” suddenly appeared, and the sports world was affected. Kim Jong-il said, “Those who go to international competitions and don’t perform well have not done their duty, so don’t send them out for three years if they are going to waste the country’s money.” In short, the country had no money, so only those who could make it to the top were to be sent out.

Yunxi’s choice of biathlon was far from a medal-winning sport. Yunxi’s experience of competing in international events

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