#OsloFF News — Grace Jo in the Daily Mail

Expert in escaping North Korea has a message for Trump

By Agence France-Presse

"I'm good at escaping," says Grace Jo, a slender 25-year-old who managed to flee North Korea and its authoritarian regime not just once but three times, though most of her family was not so lucky.

Even as the reclusive Asian nation steps up its military provocations, millions of its people still struggle to get enough to eat.

But those like Jo who can find their way out of the country often find themselves sent back, once they are discovered by authorities in neighbouring countries.

Such was Jo's fate the first time she fled North Korea, when she was about seven years old.

"We walked three nights and four days," she recalls.

"We walked on unpaved roads, and we crossed many mountains until we reached the Tumen River" which separates North Korea from China.

Only her mother and her sister Jinhye, who was 10 at the time, made the trip with her.

A few months earlier, her father had been arrested and beaten by authorities for crossing the border to buy a bag of rice, and he died on the train taking him to prison.

Her grandmother and two younger brothers died of hunger, and her eldest sister had gone off to search for food and never returned.

"In a short time, almost all my family members died or disappeared," Jo told AFP this week on the sidelines of the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual gathering of human rights activists held in the Norwegian capital.

At the time -- the second half of the 1990s -- North Korea was experiencing a famine that left hundreds of thousands dead.

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