Read the incredible story of a woman who escaped North Korea
A North Korean defector named Joo Yang recently participated in an AMA on Reddit, and her story of escaping the totalitarian rule of the country is completely stunning. Joo Yang defected from the country in 2010 after her parents went to South Korea first. Here is her account of how she escaped.
..."We made a cover story that my father had died at sea and my mother and other family members had left our house to try to find any remains of my father. So I was in our house my myself, but the secret police came to ask me questions. I stuck to the story and told them that my family had become separated, and stonewalled their questions. I knew that the secret police used people in the neighborhood to monitor my behavior, but I just pretended not to notice and carried on living my life."
She then goes on and describes in detail that the secret police have a neighborhood supervisor who goes around inspecting houses and tries to collect information on people. Here are some other highlights from the compelling question and answer session:
Q: What was it like to go from a world with very little of today's modern technology to a world with the Internet and its capabilities to connect you with people and information all over the world?
A: First it was kind of like arriving in the modern world in a time machine. There were so many things I didn't know, but as I learnt one thing after another by trying them, that was really fun. Even typing on a computer was really novel and fun at first. It's been three years, but even now there's still a lot of new things.
Q: Could you share a personal moment from your past that, looking back now, influenced you (and your parents) to defect?
A: My grandfather always told us that our generation must find freedom. And he told us about modern technology and advanced countries. Also, my father listened to foreign radio illegally since I was 9 years old. That had a really big influence. South Korean radio, VOA, RFA... we could hear news including news from people who had defected first so we got courage from that and were able to plan our defection strategy.
Q: How are North Korean weddings celebrated?
A: North Korean women really want to enjoy romance. In North Korea we wear traditional Korean-style clothes for wedding dresses (Joson-ot, or "hanbok" in South Korea), but more recently because of the effects of foreign media, some North Korean women want to wear a white wedding dress at their wedding!
But that has not been possible in North Korea yet. So people are adapting the traditional style wedding dress and making it look more beautiful. Another thing is that normally the wedding ceremony is done in the house of the groom and the bride, once each. But if it's too expensive to get all the food for that, then sometimes they combine it and just do it once in one side's house.
Q: Since crossing the border into south Korea, have you encountered any negativity or prejudice from the south Korean people?
A: South Korean people can be quite discriminating, for instance against Korean-Chinese people living in South Korea. When I speak, I have a dialect and to many South Koreans it sounds like how Korean-Chinese people from Northeast China speak. Sometimes people have asked if I'm from there, and I felt negativity in their tone. Also, one time my auntie was riding in a taxi when the driver asked where she was from. When she replied "North Korea," he stopped the car and asked her to get out! Even so, for me personally, I think that being open with where I am from helps me to adapt to life here in the long run.