Edited by Rosa Park, Bomi Im and Megan Lee
Reprinted from hrnkinsider.org on June 20, 2013
In North Korea
Musan district in North Hamgyong province of North Korea, the coldest part of the Korean peninsula, is my birthplace. It was also my home for seventeen years and now, where all my childhood memories continue to reside. Notwithstanding its chilly temperature, I want to visit my hometown and native land at least once before I die. Every spring, apricot blossoms and azalea flowers still managed to bloom on the hill in front of my house. As a student, I would idyllically smoke with friends. Of course, if we were caught, our teacher forced us to chew those same cigarettes while still lit. On holidays, I could hear the sounds of rice-cake making—the wooden mallet pounding the rice paste—seemingly coming from around every house, and the smoke from chimneys wafted through the village. I would also go door to door, bowing to the village elders—it is customary in Korea to receive money from elders by presenting them with formal bows, especially on given holidays. Naturally, my mother was also diligent in taking all the money I received.