Michael Flax retired January 2005, as assistant special agent in charge, Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, San Diego, California. He has also served as a special agent with the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigative Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the United States Customs Service, Office of Investigation.
An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships – and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.
As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told “the best on the planet”?
Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family.
This lack of knowledge may have been a good thing in one sense. If I had known the length of my entombment after returning from Riverside, I'm not sure I would have survived. Of course, I'm not sure even Master knew how long he was going to keep me in the box.
A few days passed then a few more. Then weeks passed followed by months. Months slowly turned into years. I would spend the next three years of my life (1981-1984) in the box sleeping, dreaming, and praying.
I have to assume my lengthy confinement in the box came about because Master was concerned he had given me too much freedom. Maybe he felt he was losing control of his slave. Too many neighbors had seen me, and questions about my status in the Hooker household were surely to arise. A fast thinking family member in Riverside may have copied down his vehicle tag number. What if the police knocked on his door one day looking for Colleen Stan? What if they searched the mobile home? Would anyone think to look under a waterbed for the girl in the box? Master wanted to keep me out of sight until the heat had passed.
The other reason for putting me into storage was Ma'am. I'm sure she wanted me out of her life, out of her children's lives, and out of her husband's life. Master was not ready to let his slave go. Cloistering was the only answer.
My daily routine soon became predictive as I was allowed out late in the evening after the girls had gone to bed. I emptied my bedpan, drank a large glass of water, and ate cold leftovers in the front bathroom. Sometimes the leftovers were true leftovers that had been out all day and the family didn't want.