Jun Ho’s First Train Ride

north korean train depot

Jun Ho was only six-years old and this was his first train ride. Daddy couldn’t come, but Mommy said they were going all the way to Russia.

Soo Mi took her only child by his hand as the train pulled into Pyongyang station. It would take eight days to reach Moscow and anything could go wrong in that time. She showed the forged identity papers to the conductor. It was unlikely her husband would suspect they’d attempt to escape this way.

Her son was so excited as they sat in their seats. He giggled as the train started moving. They would never see North Korea again. Her long assignment as a sleeper agent was over. She was taking her precious boy and North Korea’s nuclear secrets to the west with her.

Her husband, a Major in the Korean People’s Army, would search for them in vain.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw photo writing challenge, with images provided by Google maps. Today, the pegman takes us to North Korea. The challenge is to use a single image as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is exactly 146.

I took a peek at the image used by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields on her blog post response to the prompt (no, I haven’t read her story yet), and although I could have used another photo, I was captivated by the idea of traveling by rail in North Korea. I found out that there is a train that travels back and forth between Pyongyang and Moscow by way of Irkutsk.

From there, I used North Korea’s nuclear threat to the world as a hook and my wee tale practically wrote itself.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.


18 thoughts on “Jun Ho’s First Train Ride

    • That’s kind of the point of these photo flash fiction challenges. What story can you see in a single image. Great way to stimulate the imagination. Thanks.


  1. I read several accounts of North Koreans who have escaped to China only to find themselves being used as bargaining chips. There are reports of tens of thousands of these refugees who have left their families in hopes of reuniting at some later time. Koreans value family above all else, so the post WW2 division into north and south hit them especially hard. The US destroyed almost all of the North’s urban area and killed more than 20% of their population with B-29s, plus countless millions more from famine and disease. I can understand the national hostility toward the west, though a despot is a despot. That said, despots who obtain nuclear arms and surrender them to the US have a very short life expectancy. It’s a mess, but a mess of our own making, since it was Theodore Roosevelt who gifted Korea to Japan as a colony as a condition of peace with Russia. The Japanese occupied the country for 45 years. When the US divided it, that was all she wrote. It’s easy to label one side as a villain, but history is much more complicated than that.


    • Well, it was Britain that went back on it’s agreement with the Jewish people, severely curtailing the size of the Jewish state of Israel for the sake of maintaining access to Arab oil, so I guess you just can’t trust empires.


  2. Dear James,

    No matter how you slice it, the world’s in a mell of a hess. Who can you trust? I hope she makes it out and away. BTW I lifted my photo from a video on You Tube. Good story.




    • Possibly. If our sleeper agent has been in North Korea for a decade or so, deliberately married a high ranking Army officer and had a child with him to get nuclear secrets, there is indeed a lot more to this story.


  3. Poor Jun Ho. What a cold-blooded woman Soo Mi must be. That’s a good story, James, and, as others have said, it has the potential for something longer and very satisfying. Great take!


    • There are some things to consider, Penny. Soo Mi was a sleeper agent, which means she made a long-term commitment to spying on North Korea’s nuclear program. It also meant spending a decade or more undercover. To find out what she needed to know, she married and had a child with a high ranking Army officer in the nuclear program. She got access to the information she needed from him.

      Now it’s time for her to leave the country and return home, but what should she do with her little boy, leave him behind to believe his mother abandoned him? She really does love him as any mother would, but being a covert agent for another government, she also has a duty. From her perspective, the only thing she could do was to take her son with her. It will be hard on him and he won’t understand, but while she may have never loved her husband, she has always loved her child.


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