Hyesan people have money, the most after those in Pyongyang, because it's near the border with China. Illegal smuggling businesses and Chinese trading companies operate there, so people can access outside products.
We were taught North Korea is a heaven. They told us how people in western countries die in hospital or have no money to study in school.
On a bus ride through China, my family and I had talked for hours before a police officer boarded to conduct an inspection. My mother and brother couldn't speak Chinese, so they pretended to be deaf and mute, and none of the Chinese passengers said anything, sparing us.
When I was growing up, my mum was doing illegal smuggling with China. Sometimes she would see a fortune teller for advice. One time I went with her: 'In your future, you'll be living in foreign country and eating the foreign country rice,' she said.
We always had power shortages in the country. I was living right next to the border with China, and it was the only country I could compare to my own. When I looked across the river, it was a completely different world - there were no people dying. It looked like a place full of colour, and that's what confused me.
Here in South Korea, I'm continuing to learn English in order to boost my prospects. When North Korean defectors try to get a job to stabilize their lives, their lack of English is a handicap. It was the same story while I was living in China. It took an enormous amount of time and enthusiasm to learn Chinese.