• Thomas Lee 11th Chino Hills High

The Price for a Scrap of Rice

I skipped school today. I had to do what I had to do. Having witnessed my grandma dying of starvation a year ago, I could no longer put off this mission for my family; I must accomplish. My mission is to jump and fly my body over to a speedy coal-carrying train, hoping to shove some coals in my backpack, so I could exchange them for a scrap of rice. On the 7th of March, 1996, I managed to jump on a train. Suppressing my throbbing heart, I began to jump from one train car to another. While hanging to the train, rather hanging for my life, I lost my consciousness from hunger and fell through a gap between the cars. I didn’t remember much afterward . . . only the cruel reality to face after gaining my consciousness: “A piece of very thin flesh was holding my leg to the rest of my body. Blood was gushing out.” Evidently, my limbs - right leg and arm - were run over by the train. With no proper medical equipment or anesthesia, the doctors had to cut off my hanging limbs with a saw. I fainted multiple times due to the unbearable pain; the pain deeply penetrated into my bones, my soul, and my spirit.

This is the story of Ji Sung Ho, a North Korean defector, and sadly, his story is just one out of thousands of defectors’ and millions of North Korean citizens have perished under Kim Jung Un’s regime in North Korea. His testimonial was a wake-up call for me. Emptying out a 20 gallon kitchen trashcan every day as my normal chore in my house, I know how much food we waist daily. It is unimaginable someone at my age on the other side of the globe had to literally risk their life for a scrap of rice. Upon encountering this shocking testimonial, I was left with two choices: plug my Airpods back in my ears and zone back into my own world, or ask a series of “why” questions, letting them continue to stir my conscience. I chose the latter one, and I still haven’t found the answers to too many why's. I have the feeling that it could be a life-long quest to adequately address suffering and injustice of my fellow humankinds, but the quest must continue.

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