Escape From North Korea

The heavily guarded Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea is impossible to cross alive, so if you want to escape from North Korea, you have a better chance taking the more circuitous route of sneaking into China, and then slowly and cautiously making your way across the country to freedom in South Korea.

But this route presents plenty of obstacles. Defectors have 2,000 miles of China to cross, and if they are discovered by Chinese police, they will be deported in handcuffs and chains back to North Korea, where they will spend 10 years doing hard labor in a prison camp.

Writer Tom O'Neill went undercover to meet some of these North Korea defectors hiding in China, and reported their stories (with names & escape routes changed) in this article in the February issue of National Geographic.

Some 50,000 North Korean escapees are thought to be hiding in China, many of them virtual prisoners of exploitative employers who can blow the whistle on them at any time if they protest. Many of them never make it to South Korea.


From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by Marilyn Terrell.

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Putting aside the convoluted game that is foreign policy towards North Korea, this is just a sample of the heartbreaking situation of the relatively few North Korean people who have come to the realization that their government is slowly killing them. While just as tragic as the stories of refugees across the globe, this one is particularly poignant since it's a sad tale of people of the same race culture becoming worlds apart in less than a generation because of diverging political ideologies. I think Mr. O'Neill's piece is excellent in depicting the tragedies these people have to go through as well as capturing a glimmer of the challenges the area faces in the aftermath of a collapsed North Korea.
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Guy Deslile's "Pyongyang" is a wonderful, non-fiction graphic novel account of the lives of people in North Korea, where the mere existence of the world outside NK is barely if ever acknowledged.
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