Hey everybody, it’s Steve from Asian Boss North Korea is arguably the most isolated and secretive nation on the planet, and chances are you probably have no idea what’s going on there. Other than what you see on the news from time to time. So, what do we do? We come up with a whole bunch of stereotypes about North Korea and we start criticising and ridiculing them. But in the process, what we may have forgotten is the people of North Korea. In that spirit, we’re able to interview a couple of young North Korean defectors to hear their stories. Given the importance of this topic, We’re going to separate this interview into two videos. In this video, you’ll get to hear what life is actually like in North Korea. Now, some of their stories might be disturbing to some viewers, but we didn’t edit them out on purpose because we think it’s important that their voices be heard. So, I hope that you really pay attention and listen to what they have to say. -Thank you for your time.
-Thanks for having me. A lot of people, including me, are very curious about North Korea. Right. As a North Korean defector, I trust you’d be able to paint a more accurate picture. Yes. How old were you when you escaped? I escaped when i was 12. I left North Korea in 2001, spent three years in China… and ten years in South Korea. Why did you decide to escape from North Korea? The biggest reason was… I didn’t know when i was going to die of starvation. Since Kim Jong-il came into power, North Korea experienced a major famine… that claimed as many as three million lives. I experienced it all first hand. The famine in the 90’s is known as the “Arduous March”. It was brutal times. I saw two-thirds of the people in my hometown starve to death. They died because there was nothing to eat. Because the government couldn’t provide food? They didn’t provide food. You actually witnessed someone die? I saw a two year old girl die right in front of me. You see, when a person dies… flies are the first to know. Even though she was still breathing, they must’ve known she was going to die… like how rats or other animals run away before earthquakes. So they knew and they started gathering around her eyes, nose, mouth, anus… around those areas… they start gathering like crazy. When I saw things like that, I thought there was no reason why I couldn’t end up just like her. Luckily at the time, my mother was able to travel to China a few times and told me China was a rich country. So she decided to go to China and I tagged along. Before we went to China, we thought it was the greatest country on earth. I always remember my experience involving plastic bottles. When I was in North Korea, I lived with my stepfather. He was an alcoholic but at the time, the price of alcohol was equivalent to a meal enough to feed five people. In winter, because there was no electricity in the country side I was living in… Like zero electricity? They gave us electricity only a few times in a year. Like on New Year’s Day because we had to listen to Kim II-Sung or Kim Jong-il’s New Year’s address. So they gave us electricity to turn on our TVs. How do you live without electricity? Lamps. You use oil based lamps. Anyway, so whenever I had to run errands for my stepfather at night I’d slip on ice and drop the alcohol bottle because i couldn’t see anything. I tried to be careful but I’d fall at least four times a year. I didn’t mind getting beat up by my stepdad. It was the guilt I destroyed something valuable that could’ve fed five people. that killed me at the time. So I always used to wish that I could have a bottle that doesn’t break. But one day, I saw a plastic bottle when I went to a flea market with my mom and I thought “wow, so such bottles do exist!” But it was too expensive so I couldn’t buy it. So knowing that such bottles existed, I saw plastic bottles among garbage later when I was escaping via the Tumen river. It was truly shocking and… when I tried to pick it up in that life or death moment, the broker I was with told me there were plenty of new plastic bottles in China. I was like, “really”? and remember escaping without the plastic bottle. Is it easy to go to China? Not at all. It’s a matter of life and death. So in order to escape, do you need to climb over a fence or something? No, when you escape, there is the Tumen river. North Korea and China is divided by a river. So you have to cross either the Tumen River or the Amnok River to go China. By boat? It was winter when i escaped. In the next video, you’re going to find out how their lives have changed after arriving in South Korea. So stay tuned, and make sure to subscribe to Asian Boss to be notified whenever we release new videos. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you in the next video.