Director's Notes: Rapunzel and North Korea

The following post was written by Crossing Borders' Executive Director: For the past year the animated film “Tangled” has been on heavy rotation in my house. It’s Disney’s take on the classic fairy tale, “Rapunzel.” My daughter has really latched onto the story and the songs. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s about a girl with magic hair who was kidnapped by a witch when she was a baby. The witch locks her up in a tower and raises her to think there is nothing outside her tower but suffering and pain. Rapunzel escapes, finds love and lives happily ever after.

After about the fifth time watching it, I began to study the film. I analyzed the plot, I picked out bad dialogue and I found holes in the story.

“A woman is locked up in a tower by an evil witch her whole life and she shows no signs of PTSD?” I asked my four-year-old, who wasn’t listening.

Around the eighth time watching it I began drawing parallels between Rapunzel and the North Korean people. Like Rapunzel, North Koreans have been trapped in their own “tower.” But instead of a witch controlling the information that comes in from the outside, it’s a government with a strong army.

North Koreans have no access to the Internet. Their phone network is completely cut off from the rest of the world. It is outlawed for them to watch television shows from the outside (the punishment can be time in their brutal system of labor camps) or listen to songs the regime deems threatening (almost every song that is not originated in North Korea). If someone hears you speak ill of the government, you could be reported, sent to a prison camp and maybe executed.

We have shared on this blog about our North Korean refugee Ae Young, whose job in North Korea was to teach her people about Juche, North Korea’s ideological construct or, as some people have called it, their religion. Even after fleeing out of North Korea for food and seeing the truth and prosperity of the outside world, she still maintained that the North Korean regime had built the greatest government on earth, that all they needed was food.

It was only after two years that she acknowledged North Korea wasn’t the best. She simply said, “They need God.”

After years of captivity, North Koreans, like Rapunzel, are hungry for the outside world.

Rapunzel was starving to see the world outside her tower. She was starving to see the lights of the nearby town, which lit up on her birthday.

Today, North Koreans are starving for DVDs with Korean dramas, shrugging off punishment because such blackmarket items are commonplace. People are smuggling in USB drives with Korean pop music and information about the outside world. Teenagers with cell phones are exchanging files through Bluetooth with music and videos from the outside. And most significant to Crossing Borders, North Koreans are still illegally moving to and from China in search for food and freedom.

Every human has an innate sense of right and wrong, not just when they are confronted with lying or stealing but in a global sense of how the world should or should not be. Both Rapunzel and North Koreans have found a way to climb down from that tower into the truth of the real world.

For those who are willing to take the risk of stepping out into the world, Crossing Borders will be in Northeast China to greet them just over the border. Our mission is to show the compassion of Christ to them and their children with no strings attached. Please pray for us as we continue this work.