May 1, 2013


There are two articles on the CNN website right now about North Korea, but neither of the articles has anything to do with nuclear weapons.

One article is about an American who visited North Korea and is under arrest, and who will face the Democratic Republic of North Korea’s Supreme Court for his unknown crime.

Pae Jun Ho legally entered North Korea as a tourist, but he was detained. The North Korean government has arrested him and he is being kept for an unspecified crime against the country. They have alleged that he confessed to the crime, but it is still unknown what he did.

Even though the United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, they are using the Swedish embassy to negotiate and try to obtain his release.

This, of course, does not bode well for North Korea and their thin relationship with the United States as it currently stands. As things have been cooling off, the sentence that is handed down could greatly affect how we move forward in our relationship.

The other article is even sadder. It is about a woman who talks about escaping from North Korea into China, and then coming to South Korea. From South Korea, she orchestrates getting the rest of her family out of North Korea. I am only giving a brief overview of her story. I highly suggest you watch the TED talk that she gave.

Lee Hyeonseo believed, growing up in North Korea, that she was leading a normal life, even though she said she saw her first public execution at 7 years old. To be fair, it wasn’t that long ago that public execution was still held in the United States and other Western countries. Regardless of your opinion of the practice, that is the truth.

Essentially things were going well for her and her family, until the mid-1990s when the great famine hit North Korea.

People started to starve to death, and people are still starving to death. She decided she needed to get away from North Korea if she was going to survive.

She successfully got into China, and hid there for 10 years. She learned the local language well enough that when she was picked up on the suspicion of being North Korean, she was able to speak well enough and give good enough answers that the police let her go.

I know this might not sound like a big deal. However, the ability to trick someone into believing you are a native to their language, and that you speak the language fluently, especially under the pressure of losing your life, is highly commendable.

If she were found out to be North Korean, she would have been sent back to North Korea and either sentenced to hard labor or executed.

Then, after all of that, she was able to get to South Korea and set herself up. She started to study so that she could get into a Korean University. Then she received a phone call that the money she was sending to her parents in North Korea was intercepted, and that her family was going to be moved to a desolate location in the countryside. It would have essentially been a death sentence for her family by starvation and malnutrition.

She had to act quickly to get them out of North Korea. She flew back to China and was able to meet her family in China, where she decided to take the long way and head 2,000 miles southwest to Laos.

They were almost caught several times. This is my favorite story of how they evaded being found out:

One time, our bus was stopped and boarded by a Chinese police officer. He took everyone’s ID cards and started asking questions. Since my family couldn’t understand Chinese, I thought we were going to be arrested. As the police officer approached my family, I quickly stood up and told him that these were deaf and dumb people that I was chaperoning. He looked at me suspiciously, but luckily, he believed me.”

Then, when they got to Laos, she had to bribe the border guards, but soon after they were arrested for illegally crossing the border. She kept going back and forth to the police station and the South Korean embassy, but she didn’t have enough money to pay the fines and the bribes.

Then a random act of kindness happened. A man asked her, “What is wrong?” With the help of a dictionary, she was able to explain her situation to him. He went to an ATM and gave her the money she needed and enough to get two other North Koreans out of jail.

When asked why he did it, he said, “I’m helping the North Korean people.”

Maybe the way I transcribed this didn’t pull any emotions out of you, so maybe you should watch the video.


I need to make another retraction about my last couple of posts. I went back and forth on who was responsible for hacking South Korean banks and the government is back to saying it was North Korea.

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