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Defector Interviews

Peace on the Korean Peninsula should pursue natural reunification as the basis of fostering empathy between the South and North.
To this end, we share a series of interviews with North Korean defectors to help the two Koreas better understand each other. We hope that this would be a good opportunity to improve your understanding of the lives of North Korean defectors and share various opinions on Korean reunification.
The interviews conducted in 2020 includes the difficulties North Korean defectors face in South Korea and the stories of people around them (North Korean students, parents, teachers guiding North Korean defectors, mothers who give birth in China and subsequently moved to South Korea). (All interviews have strictly adhered to COVID-19 prevention guidelines and were conducted 1:1 between Secretary General Bada Nam and North Korean defectors).

Interview 1: Story of North Korean university students

Interview Date: 19 August 2020
Name (Pseudonym): Leeseul Kim
State of employment at interview: Year 4 university student, received Korean education since middle school.
Time of defection/entry: Early 2000s

Life as a student in South Korea
– The general environment of South Korean schools
– Process of overcoming difficulties as a North Korean defector
– Support received or advantages reaped as a North Korean defector

Revealing one’s identity as a North Korean defector
– Process of unveiling the hidden identity as a North Korean defector
– Opinion on other North Korean defectors trying to hide their identity
– Plans for the future and the potential impact of her identity

Improving the perception of North Koreans
– Meaning of external information to North Koreans
– Impact of internet access to North Koreans
– Role North Koreans should play on the day they begin interacting with the outside world

Interview 2: Story of human trafficking victims

Interview Date: 24 August 2020
Name (Pseudonym): Boram Kim
State of employment at interview: Preparing for university
Time of defection/entry: Late 2010s

Never lived the life she dreamed of due to a tough family background in North Korea.
– Moved to China through a broker deceived by the idea of earning big money but became subject to human trafficking.
– Lived under surveillance after a forced marriage, gave birth to children and ran away when unattended.
– South Koreans are free to live the life you want. Want to pursue further education and so is preparing for university.
– Do not have the leisure to bring back Chinese children. Want to focus on self-improvement for the time being.

Goal or dream in South Korea: “I want to help people in need. Since I’ve been through difficult times myself, I understand the pain so much that I want to help them if I have the time and money”.

Interview 3: Story of a North Korean student instructor

Interview Date: 27 August 2020
Name (Pseudonym): Sun Choi
State of employment at interview: Working as a ‘unification specialist’ to support North Korean defectors
Time of defection: Late 1990s
Time of entry: Late 2000s

Conducted classes at primary and middle schools as a qualified teacher in North Korea.
– Decided to go to China because of the food shortage during the march of hardship – so severe that her students were starving to death.
– Escaped from human trafficking and have worked in China for a long time.
– Always lived under threat of forced repatriation to North Korea and was determined to lie in South Korea where there would be no such threat.
– In South Korea, worked as an alternative school teacher and a unification education teacher supporting North Korean defector students.
– Stories of difficult situations and undisclosed cases of North Korean defectors.
– North Korea defectors face difficulty in adapting to South Korean society, and helping troubled defectors also entails many challenges.

What do unification education teachers wish for?
– An open mindset with no prejudice towards North Korean defectors,
– To join and support us, understand us as the same Koreans,
– And as a North Korean defector, to consider me as a child in a family, as a supporter of my family.

Interview 4: Story of a North Korean students and mothers

Interview Date: 04 November 2020
Name (Pseudonym): Hyejin Han
State of employment at interview: Mother of a child doing business in Korea, who gave birth to a child through human trafficking in China and raised him as a college student.
Time of defection: 1998
Time of entry: 2003

Had a tough time working in Musan mine after graduating from professional school but was not compensated well enough for a decent living.
– Heard that life in China is different from that in North Korea, and went to China out of curiosity and decided not to return to the North again.
– All sisters were trafficked, married forcibly, had children, and arrived in South Korea after many challenges due to the threat of forced repatriation.
– Discussion on the relationship between trafficked North Korean women and their Chinese husbands.
– Difficulty in maintaining forcibly made Chinese families and children in South Korea.
– Difficulties in settling in South Korea, also faced by her Chinese husband and children.
– Sacrificed and worked hard to support the child. Accompanied the child to Taekwondo gym, gaming company, and English classes while working full-time.
– Perspective on reunification.

Interview 5: Story on middle-class North Koreans and use of digital devices

Interview Date: 26 October 2020
Name (Pseudonym): Wooyoung Bang
State of employment at interview: University student with a job
Time of defection/entry: 2014

Lived in a wealthy family in North Korea.
– Have used computers and the intranet in North Korea. Those uninterested in digital technology do not bother using it at all, but the government still encourages computer education and usage.
– However, none of the ordinary North Koreans have access to the internet.
– Must remain vigilant as you are always under surveillance.
– Decided to defect to South Korea after pondering about life after the military.
– Opinions on reunification, stories on paths to reunification, and hopes for the future post-reunification.