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She Fled Famine in North Korea, Then Died Poor in a Prosperous Land

来源:纽约时报    2019-09-24 10:36

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        SEOUL, South Korea — It was sad enough when the bodies of Han Sung-ok and her 6-year-old son were found in their $74-a-month apartment in Seoul in July, two months after they had died.
        韩国首尔——今年7月,人们在韩星玉(Han Sung-ok,音)和她六岁的儿子死去两个月后,在他们月租金为74美元的首尔公寓里发现了他们的尸体,这已经够让人伤心的了。
        But the story became national news after it emerged that Ms. Han, 42, was a North Korean who had fled famine in her homeland, and that the two had died alone and impoverished in one of Asia’s richest cities.        但当人们了解到,享年42岁的韩星玉是从家乡逃荒出来的脱北者,母子两人在亚洲最富裕的城市之一孤独而贫困地死去,这个故事成了全国性的新闻。
        Their bodies were so decomposed that the cause of death could not be determined, according to the authorities. But several South Korean news outlets have reported that they died of starvation, and officials have not disputed those reports. The news channel that broke the story last month quoted an unidentified police officer as saying that there was no other possible explanation.        据当局称,他们的尸体已经腐烂到无法确定死因的程度。但据几家韩国新闻媒体的报道,他们死于饥饿,官员们没有对这些报道表示异议。上个月最先报道这件事的新闻频道援引一位没有给名字的警官的话说,没有其他可能的死因。
        The deaths have been a shocking reminder of the hardships faced by many North Koreans in the South, as they try and sometimes fail to adjust to a radically new life. Since the news became public, thousands have visited a mourning station built for Ms. Han and her son, Kim Dong-jin, in central Seoul, laying white chrysanthemums in front of portraits of them.        他们的死亡以令人震惊的方式提醒着人们,许多脱北者在韩国生活困难,他们试图适应一个全新的生活,但有时却并不成功。自消息公开后,数千人来到首尔市中心一个为韩星玉和她的儿子金东进(Kim Dong-jin,音)设置的悼念站,在他们的照片前摆放白色菊花。
        The most emotional visitors were other North Koreans and their supporters, hundreds of whom came from across the country on Saturday to attend a funeral ceremony for the mother and son. Speaker after tearful speaker apologized for not protecting them from the prejudices, indifference and ostracism that many North Koreans say they experience in the South.        情绪最激动的悼念者是其他脱北者和他们的支持者,他们数百人上周六从韩国各地赶来,参加了为这对母子举行的葬礼。一个接一个流着眼泪的讲话者为没能保护他们不受偏见、冷漠和排挤而道歉,许多脱北者说,这些都是他们在韩国的经历。
        “I am still struggling to understand this: She escaped a famine in North Korea — only to starve to death in the heart of South Korea, where there is so much food that going on a diet is its biggest fad,” said Heo Kwang-il, who leads a North Korean defectors’ organization.        “我仍想不通,她逃离了朝鲜的饥荒,却饿死在了韩国的中心。韩国的食物如此之多,在这里,节食是最大的时尚,”一个脱北者组织的领导人许光日(Heo Kwang-il,音)说。
        Not much is known about Ms. Han’s life in either Korea. But she appears to have become increasingly isolated and despondent in her last months, though help for her and her son was just a few hundred yards away at a district government office.        人们对韩星玉在朝鲜和韩国的生活所知甚少。但在她生命的最后几个月里,她似乎变得越来越孤独和失望,虽然在几百米远的一个区政府办公室里就能获得对他们母子的帮助。
        She first arrived in South Korea in 2009, according to government records. Like all defectors from the isolated, totalitarian North, she went through 12 weeks of mandatory classes, learning basic skills like using a credit card and driving a car.        政府记录显示,她最初是2009年到韩国的。像所有来自与世隔绝的极权主义朝鲜的叛逃者一样,她上了12周的法定课程,学习了使用信用卡和开车等基本技能。
        The government provides North Korean refugees with low-rent apartments, welfare payments and free health care and job training. But many struggle to make the transition from the North’s highly regimented system to the South’s fast-paced, capitalistic one. A few have even returned to the North, complaining that they had been treated like second-class citizens in the South.        韩国政府为朝鲜难民提供廉租房、社会保障金、免费医疗和职业培训。但很多人在从朝鲜非常严格的体制向韩国快节奏的资本主义体制过渡中面临困难重重。一些人甚至返回了朝鲜,他们抱怨韩国把他们当作二等公民对待。
        Ms. Han got off welfare in nine months, suggesting that she was adapting quickly to her new life. But Kim Yong-hwa, the head of the NK Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea, who knew Ms. Han, said she had been carrying an emotional burden.        韩星玉九个月后就不再领取社会保障金了,意味着她正在迅速适应新生活。但认识韩星玉的韩国朝鲜难民人权协会(NK Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea)会长金容和(Kim Yong-hwa,音)说,韩星玉一直背负着沉重的感情负担。
        She had originally fled the North for China in the wake of the famine that killed millions of North Koreans in the late 1990s, according to Mr. Kim. He said she became one of the thousands of North Korean women sold by human traffickers to rural Chinese men looking for wives.        据金容和说,韩星玉最初是在20世纪90年代末那场导致数百万朝鲜人死亡的饥荒之后,从朝鲜逃到中国的。他说,她被人贩子卖给寻找妻子的中国农村男子,这样的朝鲜女性有数千名。
        Such women live with the constant fear of being returned to North Korea and sent to a labor camp. Rights groups say that many of the women’s Chinese husbands exploit that vulnerability and sexually abuse them.        这些女性一直生活在被送回朝鲜关进劳改营的恐惧之中。人权组织说,许多女性的中国丈夫利用这种恐惧,对她们进行性侵犯。
        Some North Korean women in that situation have made their way to South Korea with children they had in China, only to face the stigma of being a single mother in the South, along with all the other difficulties of adjusting to life there.        一些处于这种状况的朝鲜女性带着她们在中国生的孩子来到了韩国,却要面对在韩国做单身母亲的耻辱,还要适应韩国生活的种种艰辛。
        Ms. Han initially came to the South alone, leaving a young son behind with her husband, according to Mr. Kim, who said he helped arrange her escape through Thailand, using smugglers. She paid the smugglers $2,000 after arriving in the South and getting cash support from the government, Mr. Kim said.        据金容和说,韩星玉最初独自一人来到了韩国,把年幼的儿子留给了丈夫。金容和说,他靠走私者帮助安排韩星玉经过泰国逃到了韩国。韩星玉来到韩国、拿到政府的现金支持后,给了走私者2000美元,金容和说。
        “But she terribly missed her son in China,” he said.        “但她非常想念在中国的儿子,”他说。
        In 2012, Ms. Han asked her husband, an ethnic Korean, to join her in South Korea with their son. The man found work at a shipyard. Another son — Dong-jin — was born in 2013. They soon discovered that he had epilepsy.        2012年,韩星玉让丈夫带着儿子一起来韩国与她生活,她的丈夫是朝鲜族。丈夫在一家造船厂找到了工作。另一个儿子东进在2013年出生了。他们很快发现他患有癫痫。
        South Korea’s shipbuilding industry entered a slump, and Ms. Han’s husband lost his job. In 2017, the family moved back to China.        韩国造船业陷入衰退后,韩星玉的丈夫失去了工作。2017年,一家人搬回了中国。
        Last September, Ms. Han returned to South Korea with Dong-jin, having divorced her husband, according to Mr. Kim. He said she called him, sounding depressed. She was afraid she wouldn’t be able to work, because she couldn’t find a child-care center that would accept an epileptic child. He said he advised her to apply for welfare benefits.        据金容和说,去年9月,韩星玉与丈夫离婚后,与东进一起回到了韩国。他说,韩星玉打电话给他,听起来很抑郁。她担心自己无法工作,因为找不到一个可以接受癫痫儿童的托儿所。他说,他建议韩星玉申请社会保障金。
        What happened to Ms. Han and Dong-jin after that is not clear.        人们不清楚韩星玉和东进在此之后的情况。
        North Korean defectors are closely supervised by the government for five years, but that time period had expired. The district office says Ms. Han never applied for welfare. Other North Koreans in Seoul have said that she did not have close friends among them.        韩国政府为脱北者提供五年的密切指导,但韩星玉在韩国的时间已经超过了五年。当地民政部门表示,韩星玉从未申请过社会保障金。在首尔的其他朝鲜人说,她在他们中间没有关系很近的朋友。
        She apparently could not afford a cellphone, meaning she would have been even more isolated. In her last months, her only income was $165 per month in government child support. In March, when Dong-jin turned 6, that amount was cut in half. A social worker visited in April and reported that no one was home.        她显然买不起手机,这意味着她只会更加孤独。在生命的最后几个月里,她唯一的收入是政府提供的每月相当于165美元的儿童抚养费。东进在今年3月满六岁后,抚养费减少了一半。一名今年4月来看他们的社工报告说,家里没人。
        On May 13, Ms. Han withdrew the last money in her bank account: $3.20.        5月13日,韩星玉取出了她银行账户里的最后一笔钱:约合3.2美元。
        On July 31, a meter man went to the apartment because the gas and water bills had gone unpaid for months. The smell was terrible, and he called the police. (Neighbors later told reporters that they thought it had been from a compost pile.)        7月31日,一名抄表员来到公寓,因为煤气费和水费已经好几个月没交了。他闻到了很难闻的气味,于是报了警。(邻居们后来告诉记者,他们以为味道来自堆肥。)
        The police later estimated that Ms. Han and Dong-jin had died in late May. Forensic investigators found no evidence of poisoning or physical trauma, nor was there any sign of a break-in. The refrigerator was empty except for a bit of chili powder.        警方后来估计,韩星玉和东进是在5月底死亡的。法医调查员没有找到中毒或身体创伤的证据,也没有任何闯入的迹象。冰箱里除了一点辣椒粉,什么都没有。
        Lee Jung-bin, an emeritus professor of forensic medicine at Gachon University near Seoul, said that starvation would be hard to prove in such a case, even if circumstantial evidence pointed to it. “If they don’t find any clear clues, like poisoning, forensic examiners will have to settle for ‘cause of death unknown,’ ” he said.        首尔附近的嘉泉大学(Gachon University)法医学荣誉退休教授李荣斌(Lee Jung-bin,音)说,很难证明饥饿是此案的死亡原因,即使有间接的证据。“如果他们找不到任何明确的线索,比如中毒,法医鉴定员将不得不用‘死因不明’的说法,”他说。
        Many other questions are unanswered. Why didn’t Ms. Han ask for emergency assistance at the district office? Why didn’t she report her son’s illness, which would have entitled them to disability support? Kang Mi-jin, a North Korean defector-turned-journalist in Seoul who has been investigating the case, said Ms. Han could have withdrawn $4,500 that she had originally deposited to secure the apartment.        还有许多问题没有答案。韩星玉为什么不去区政府办公室申请紧急救助呢?她为什么不把儿子有病的情况告诉政府呢?如果说了,他们就有资格获得政府提供给残疾人的支持。由脱北者成为首尔一名记者的姜美珍(Kang Mi-jin,音)一直在调查此案。她说,韩星玉本可以把当初交的4500美元的公寓保障金取出来。
        “She either didn’t know how to navigate the South Korean system and find the help that was available, or just felt so hopeless about her situation that she gave up trying,” Ms. Kang said.        “她要么不知道如何在韩国的体制里设法找到她能够得到的帮助,要么对自己的处境感到绝望,放弃了尝试,”姜美珍说。
        Another North Korean refugee, Lee Min-bok, said: “She died not because she didn’t have any food, but because she had no hope.”        另一名朝鲜难民李民福(Lee Min-bok,音)说:“她的死不是因为没有食物,而是因为她没有了希望。”
        Helping defectors from the North has not been a political priority for South Korea in recent years, as the government has focused on improving ties with Pyongyang. And as the economy has slowed, there has been resistance to increasing subsidies for the refugees, who some see as competitors in a tough labor market.        近年来,随着政府致力于与平壤改善关系,帮助脱北者已不是韩国政治的重点。而且,随着经济的放缓,增加对难民的补贴也有阻力。一些人把难民看作是严峻的劳动力市场上的竞争对手。
        But the deaths of Ms. Han and her son have unsettled many people. Government officials stood in silence in their memory this month, at a meeting to discuss how to repair gaps in the welfare system for defectors.        不过,韩星玉和她儿子的死亡让很多人感到不安。本月,在一个讨论如何弥补脱北者社会保障漏洞的会议上,政府官员对死者进行了默哀。
        Later, they announced that the government would check in with all 31,000 North Koreans living in the South, to make sure that anyone who needed help received it.        他们在会后宣布,政府将对居住在韩国3.1万名朝鲜人进行全面排查,以确保任何需要帮助的人都能得到帮助。

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