Italian News Media Interview NK Refugee in Japan

Italian Mediaset TGCOM24 Seeks Answers

Last month, a major Italian news outlet, Mediaset TGCOM24, contacted LFNKR, requesting an interview with one NK defector (37 years old) who is now resettled in Japan.  LFNKR arranged the interview with the defector, whom LFNKR had helped to safely reach and resettle in Tokyo. 

Q: When and why did you decide to leave your country?
A: I used to secretly watch South Korean videos and listen to the radio programs from South Korea.  Also, I quietly sneaked into China and came back several times.  These experiences convinced me of the stifline autocracy in North Korea.  So, I escaped from North Korea in 2005.

Q: How did you escape?
A: I bribed a border guard.  When I escaped, it was not uncommon that North Korean soldiers received bribes from escapees, so that they could afford to arrange the escape of their own family members still living back in their hometowns.

Q: Do you have family members (parents, relatives or friends) in your country?
A: Currently, my parents and brothers are still living in North Korea.  There have been so many families escaping in recent years that they just stopped punishing the escapees’ family members remaining in North Korea.  Now they simply monitor them.

Q: Can you contact them?
A: Yes.  Since my parents are living in a border area and have illegal cellular phones, I can call and talk with them.  These are the same kind of phones smugglers use in the border area.

Q: If you went back, would you be in trouble?
A: I am sure that I’d be sent to a concentration camp.

Q: Do you feel that the people in North Korea are given less freedom?
A: People are hungry for a little freedom.  In North Korea, they have to get permits if they wish to move. Even if they only want to go and visit relatives, they first must get government permits.

Q: Do you think that North Korea is a rich or poor country?
A: North Korean society has three levels, the rich, the middle and the poor.  The rich are the top officials, the middle refers to the people who are not currently starving, and the poor refers to the people who have to hustle for food just to survive one day at a time.

Q:  We in Italy have heard about the appalling concentration camps in North Korea.  Do they really exist?  Do people in North Korea know about them?
A: Yes, they really exist in North Korea, and the people in North Korea are all too aware of them.

Q: For what kind of crimes do they sentence people to jail or to concentration camps?
A: Anyone who is thought to be against the regime are sent to the concentration camps.  In addition, it’s common for relatives up to the eighth degree of kinship also to be sent to the camps.

Q: What kind of information is subject to censorship?  What do the people of North Korea know about life outside their country?
A: People in Pyongyang have access to information about the outside world from those who have visited foreign countries.  People in the border areas have opportunities to hear about conditions in China, and people in other areas get to know about the outside world mainly through South Korean videos.

Q: What do you think about Kim Jong-un’s propaganda?
A: People have lots of complaints about Kim Jong-un, but they are not allowed to express them.  So, they believe their only hope would be a war, which they expect would bring drastic change.

Q: What does “freedom” mean to you?  How is your current life?
A: I am now enjoying a life of freedom.  I enjoy my present life in Japan because it’s possible to gain a better life by making greater efforts.  Back in North Korea, you could starve even while working.  The people living in North Korea are still forced to lead lives without freedom.