Residents continue to flee North Korea despite unbelievable dangers, and there’s now a movement to topple the regime

November 24, 2020 • 2:30 pm

While perusing this week’s New Woker, I came across a fascinating article (they’re getting rarer) about a group of loosely-affiliated people who are trying in various ways to bring down the murderous and despotic government of North Korea (DPRK). I’m not sure the article below is free, but click on a screenshot to see:

Trying to escape from North Korea is a harrowing and often fatal venture. The border with China is heavily guarded, and North Korean guards have orders to “shoot to kill.” (Crossing to South Korea is nearly impossible given the wide and mined DMZ). Once you make it to China, your troubles have just begun. If the Chinese authorities catch you, more often than not you’ll be sent back to North Korea. There you’ll be put in a prison camp—almost the equivalent in lethality of Nazi concentration camps. The only way out is to get to Mongolia, or travel through China to another country to ask for asylum. (In rare cases the Chinese will allow defectors to fly to South Korea or other countries.)

And even if your egress is successful, the North Korean policy is to imprison or execute (they’re equivalent) the family members of the escapee—three generations worth. Thus, if you have a family and successfully escape (and they know you have), you can be assured that you’ve just doomed your family. It’s a brutal and ruthless process.

This is all detailed in the New Woker article, along with an sketch of how a group of people are trying to bring down the government of the DPRK, forming a government-in-exile (completely ignored) and engaging in some activism. Still, it’s the first time an organized opposition to the North Korean government has formed. Between the article’s lines, however, you sense that although the members of the opposition group are brave and committed, their task is largely hopeless. What could bring down a cruel tyranny that doesn’t bridle at starving and killing millions of its citizens—citizens who are largely brainwashed into thinking they live in a worker’s paradise and know almost nothing of the outside world? The problem of North Korea, and how to liberate its oppressed citizens, seems intractable.

While reading the piece, I read this (“Adrian” is one of the activists):

Travelling to two or three college campuses a week, Adrian would change into his one “crappy suit,” and give presentations about the horrors of life in North Korea, sometimes screening the documentary film “Seoul Train,” which follows defectors escaping to China.

I wondered if I could find “Seoul Train” online, and, sure enough, there it was on Vimeo—the entire movie. It’s a fascinating watch, but also very sad as well. If you have a spare hour, and want to know about the world’s most enigmatic and tyrannical country, you could do worse than clicking on the video below.


17 thoughts on “Residents continue to flee North Korea despite unbelievable dangers, and there’s now a movement to topple the regime

  1. One thing is perfectly clear. China is no help in any of this and sending refugees back to N. Korea is the same as killing them. China is the enabler of N. Korea and the reason it survives.

      1. Remember the Korean War? I was born about the same time it started. So no, I did not personally get involved. But I know that essentially it was a war with China, with real Chinese troops. I have been to South Korea many times in the 80s and 90s including visits to the DMZ. I know we are just getting rid of a president who thought he knew something about N. Korea. He did not.

        1. I’ve been there a number of times too, including three visits to Panmunjom. A truly surreal place.

          The Joint Security Area building, where talks between the two sides occasionally take place, straddles the border. One of my visits took place when I was a member of the delegation of a former UK Defence Secretary. We were allowed into the JSA building, and were permitted to cross over the median line into North…for about 30 seconds.

          This visit coincided with one of the periodic ‘flag wars’ between North and South. As a result, the two flags on the negotiating table, which ordinarily would have been about 4×3 inches, had grown to around 20×15. Utterly bizarre!

          1. Very interesting. I worked for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) so most of my travels throughout South Korea were business. Generally stayed in Seoul but traveled around to our many military posts and to the ports of Inchon and Pusan.

  2. Not many people realize, and it wasn’t mentioned in the post, that North Korea and an 18km-long border with Russia.

    1. Sadly at the end of WWII we let Russia have N. Korea and that was the beginning of a very long and bad time for us. Not one of our best moves.

  3. The description of the democratic (as it were) government-in-exile, which is news to me, made me happier.

  4. Perhaps fewer sanctions might help the population. I don’t know how brainwashed North Koreans truly are, but with the constant threat of death or starvation by a government that controls all resources there is so little hope that a resistance movement can be successful.

  5. Really interesting and hopeful. I hope the Biden administration will be able to support the movement. China supports North Korea because…? What do they get out of it?

    Their relevance in the world has exploded in the past 10-20 years, so they don’t get anything from supporting N. Korea. They aren’t even purely communist anymore.

    I hope this is a positive sign for the future of these people.

    1. You still have not corrected the misinformation you promulgated about the incident of “racism” that you mentioned at Smith College. Smith itself investigated it and said it was not an incident of racism. I pointed that out to you at the time and you have still not corrected it. Please do so.

  6. I am unaware of any evidence that North Korean government has ever deliberately starved its people. The big famine from 1994 to 1998 had many causes and government mismanagement was certainly among them.

    Only about 20% of land is arable and droughts, floods and other disasters are a recurring menace. They have never been self-sufficient in food production and some believe they should not even try. Only about 6 months are frost free and only one crop a year is possible, though greenhouses seem to be proliferating for vegetable production.

    Before the great famine Russia was providing food but that came to an end when Russia collapsed. China then replaced them but had its own grainfall shortage and sharply cut aid.

    2019 was another disastrous year with heavy flooding and a typhoon which destroyed not only crops but wiped out whole villages.

    There is an excellent article on Wikipedia that goes into great detail, for those who would like to know more. And there are many fascinating videos about the DPRK on Youtube that are not made by the government but news organizations from various countries. I watches a Canadian one last evening.

  7. Interesting, thank you, I’ll surely read it.

    I wrote a book review a few years ago about Suki Kim’s book on her experiences in NK which she thanked me for (it was a glowing review).

    If you’re interested in NK and don’t buy her book my review is a short cut I suppose.

    I write about international politics, and NK is a personal interest of mine.

    I also wrote an article about the ethics of tourism to NK for Forbes Magazine once. My take: don’t go.

    D.A., NYC

    1. Many thanks for the link to both the book and your review of it. I look forward to reading both.

      For some time I have been fascinated by North Korea but know no one with a similar interest. Perhaps you could share more of your insight with me at some point. I will see if I can find a way to make contact with you. Perhaps Forbes would forward a correspondence. (?)

      I too was featured on “photos of readers” on June 9. It can be accessed through search box. Enjoyed reading about you. Brought back memories of my days in NYC.

  8. Since Fat Man Kim doesn’t seem to have any offspring older than about 10, a errant bit of atherosclerotic plaque in the next few yrs (hurry up!!) could do the world a great favor. I suppose most NK analysts assume that his sister would take over, but any transition would be destabilizing, let alone one that put a woman in charge where nobody has ever experienced one before.

  9. Nobody will be surprised that extremists and communists such as Dan “The Zionists” Arel defends North Korea and its fash regime.

    So do many of the extremists on social media who have ‘hammer and sickle’ flags in their bios.

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