Hyeon-seo grew up in Hyesan , North Korea. I felt very proud. I thought my life in North Korea was normal, even though when I was seven years old, I saw my first public execution. She later recalled a letter her mother received from the sister of a colleague, stating "When you read this, all five family members will not exist in this world, because we haven't eaten for the past two weeks… We are lying on the floor together, and our bodies are so weak we are ready to die. In , Lee crossed the frozen Yalu River alone in collusion with a friendly border guard to fulfill a dream she had before going off to college, only planning to stay a short while before returning.