North Korean defectors

North Korean defector blogging

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More than a decade after defecting from what he calls the "Animal Farm" in North Korea, Gyoon Heo has settled into university life in South Korea. 

However, upon reflecting on life from the outside looking in, he found that creating a blog was a perfect outlet: 

My father was one of those ‘traitors’ who were made examples of by the WPK during Kim Jong Il’s time. He simply disappeared one day, received no trial that I know of, and was never seen again. I do not know what happened to him or where he is. I may never even find out whether he was sent to prison or executed.

Among North Koreans it is this fear — of losing one’s country to an enemy state, one’s family to a purge, and one’s own life to ever-present danger both definable and abstract — that compels them to obey the regime.

Read more from Gyoon Heo here: https://koreaexpose.com/author/gyoon-heo/ 

Defector Dances in Defiance

Some defectors in London's suburb of New Malden struggle to find a way to contact the family they left behind in North Korea.

However, the severe punishment for those caught with smuggled information or cellphones can often leave refugees to face the harrowing path of resettlement alone. 

For Hyunjoo Kim, she turns to dance. 

Twirling to a song called "By the Love of My Lord," Kim's dance of defiance, one that could have sent her to prison in North Korea, is a symbol of her newfound freedom.

Read the full story here.

Hyunjoo Kim dances at a New Malden restaurant.

Hyunjoo Kim dances at a New Malden restaurant.

The long road to South Korea

North Korean defectors rest in a hotel room in Thailand. They will be sent to Seoul, where they will become South Korean citizens.   (Paula Bronstein / For The Washington Post)

North Korean defectors rest in a hotel room in Thailand. They will be sent to Seoul, where they will become South Korean citizens. 

(Paula Bronstein / For The Washington Post)

Instead of the short one hour and 45 minute flight from a Shenyang, China to Seoul, refugees who defect from North Korea face a much more grueling and dangerous route to safety.

Via buses, long walks over mountains, boats and hiding in the dark at border checkpoints, these refugees will journey from North Korea, through China, Laos or Vietnam, and finally Thailand, where they can request asylum and be transported to South Korea.

"I kept thinking: Imagine if I made it this far and then I got caught in Laos," a young mother said.

The article follows a group of refugees who have paid smugglers to transport them through any means possible – for the hope of a new life in South Korea. Whether it’s for new economic prospects or the fear of returning as a repatriated defector, each traveler focuses on their motivations to escape as they continue along the “underground railroad.”

Read the full Chicago Tribune story here: