One Family’s Escape from North Korea

One Family’s Escape from North Korea

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Myong and her family. | Submitted Photo

by Lily Clardy

Secretly traveling undercover, day and night, through heat waves and treacherous conditions, 8-year-old Susan Sin Myong and her family eventually made it past the armed guards and crossed the 38th parallel, then safely made it to Seoul, South Korea, in 1946.

Seventy-two years later, Hudson High School science teacher Julie Snyder is still amazed by what her parents had to do to survive.

Myong and her family lived in North Korea where they ran a successful business. One day her father learned that the Communists were going to take over their business and kill the owner of the company, him.

After finding this out, the family left as soon as possible without looking back.

Myong’s father got on a fishing boat and hid, until he made it across the border of South Korea.

Myong’s mother made the decision to split the kids up, so it would be less likely for them to get caught. Myong, her sister and brother, hid on a truck filled with bags of charcoal. They laid concealed in the bags for days, not making a sound.

The oldest two and Myong’s mother traveled to the shore line and pretended to be clam diggers. They dug deep trenches and hid in them during the day, so they wouldn’t be seen.

Once Myong and her sister and brother arrived at the border, they met a guide, where he gave them directions on how to go through the mountains without getting caught. It took them about three days to get to a refugee camp in Seoul.   

After a week of living in the refugee camp, Myong and her two siblings found their mother and oldest siblings. They waited to leave until they received a letter from their father, saying it was safe to leave.

Myong and her family all took a train to Seoul and bought a small apartment to live in.

To make money, Myong’s father bought gold and jewelry from North Korea and sold it in South Korea to start a textile business, which then became the largest in South Korea.

After years of living in Seoul, Myong met Irwin In Young Soeg, and they eventually got married.

Seog was a naval architect and mechanical engineer. In January 1970, Soeg got a job offer from the richest man in the United States at the time, to work at a large bulk carrier shipping company in New York City.

While living in the United States, Myong was a production pattern maker and worked for Oxford industries. Myong helped design clothes for Macy’s, Target, and famous designers, such as Karl Lagerfeld and Jimmy Choo.

About ten years ago, Seog worked with a Korean church that helps children who have escaped from North Korea. The church set up a refugee camp, so when the children escape they have a place to go to receive food and education.

“The fleeing from North Korea and their immigration into South Korea, along with their struggles has shaped who I am today,” Snyder says. “Our faith has become stronger, and we now understand that we are not alone in these struggles.”

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