Words matter. These are the best Lee Hyeon-seo Quotes, and they’re great for sharing with your friends.
If defectors say they had high-level connections in Pyongyang or came from an esteemed institution in the North, they can gain better employment in the South, where life can be very difficult for North Koreans.
A huge famine hit North Korea in the mid-1990s. Ultimately, more than a million North Koreans died during the famine, and many only survived by eating grass, bugs, and tree bark.
I am one of the lucky North Koreans who made it out of China. North Korean defectors in the country are terrified of trying to leave because they are often caught at the borders as they attempt to cross into Mongolia or Laos.
Kindness towards strangers is rare in North Korea. There is a risk to helping others. The state made accusers and informers of us all.
In North Koreans, the moment we are born, we don’t know there’s another life existing outside of our country. The regime always told us all the bad things about the outside world, describing America as full of thieves, all human scum, beggars, everyday people dying on the streets and hospitals.
Many people – when they think about North Korea and the dictatorship, or the military or nuclear weapons, nuclear missiles, those things – tend to forget ordinary citizens are living there.
My family lived under communism their entire lives. When they arrived in South Korea, they didn’t even know how to use the bank system and ATM or the subway, nothing.
North Korean defectors who speak out against the regime always feel nervous. We never know what the North Korean government is planning. It’s really difficult for us to show our faces and speak out, but we feel obligated to do something to inform people about the ongoing tragedy inside North Korea.
Among the difficulties I encountered, economic problems were the worst. I found that financial hardships could limit one’s ability to realize one’s dream, no matter how desperate and earnest you are.
My life is not only mine. I am telling the story of all North Korean people; it is my responsibility to tell it.
Most people in the country didn’t – and might still not – know about how powerful the United States is. They think North Korean weapons are the best in the world, and they’re very proud of them. They believe they can protect the country from anyone.
I’ve been so lucky, received so much help and inspiration in my life, so I want to help give aspiring North Koreans a chance to prosper with international support.
The border crossing is the most dangerous moment for anyone attempting to escape. But my brother and mother had been waved off by every armed border guard along that stretch of the river.
I did my best to hide by changing my name many times. But I was captured by the Chinese police. But because my Chinese was so good, they thought I was Chinese and released me. That was a miracle.
We considered the Dear Leader our god. That’s huge. He’s more than our parents. I thought all of the world respected Kim Il Sung. That’s why we were bowing to their pictures.
I don’t think the North Korean leadership is interested in a genuine deal to end their WMD programs or their stranglehold on the North Korean people.
There are people who are destined to embrace endless pain and suffering, and there are people who desire to dream. Everybody dreams, of course. But does anybody desperately want to dream more than the people of North Korea?
When I was 14, during Kim Il-sung’s funeral, I wondered, ‘How could a god die?’
We can have reunification if another power replaces Kim Jong Un. I don’t know who it could be, but I hope and I believe another power, another person will be better.
From the moment I was born, I was fed propaganda. I viewed the Kim dynasty not only as our fearless protectors from the imperialist forces, but also as gods.
Like every country, North Korea has some very smart people. They could be contributing a lot more to science and other areas, but North Koreans are forced to spend so much time memorising the fake history of our dictators and other propaganda, so are at a huge disadvantage.
We always had power shortages in the country. I was living right next to the border with China, and it was the only country I could compare to my own. When I looked across the river, it was a completely different world – there were no people dying. It looked like a place full of colour, and that’s what confused me.
Staying in China provided me with the opportunity to adjust to life outside of North Korea and to gain a sense of perspective, most importantly, by learning that so much of what I had been taught about my country was a lie.
Some people criticize North Koreans and ask, ‘Are they stupid? How can they believe those ridiculous things?’ But I say, It doesn’t matter if you’re smart: if you were born in North Korea, you would be exactly like us. We don’t know what freedom is. We have never enjoyed it.
I believe I’ll see the reunification of North and South Korea in my lifetime and that defectors should play a role in rebuilding the country. In the long run, I want to return to North Korea, because that’s where I belong.
We were taught North Korea is a heaven. They told us how people in western countries die in hospital or have no money to study in school.
We refugees, we become always a punchbag. A political punchbag between China and South Korea and North Korea.
I don’t hate the Chinese. We’re brothers, and we share a border. I just hate the government, politicians, policies, not the people.
Due to hate, fear, and oppression, the North Koreans cannot help themselves.
Even after arriving in South Korea, it’s dangerous. As a North Korean defector, I need to be careful from the spies to protect my relatives inside North Korea.
Freedom means everything to me. It is the most essential right that every person deserves. Most people take it for granted, but not North Koreans.
The TED talk I gave, that gave me another character I didn’t know about. I’m not saying the mind of a hero, but a kind of responsibility. Every word I’m speaking, it’s not from myself. I’m speaking for and representing the people of communist North Korea.
I think it’s possible that China is ready for a serious change regarding its North Korean defector policy. Chinese people are starting to realize that so many defectors have been suffering in China, and it doesn’t have to be this way.
In North Korea, we learnt all Americans are the enemy; they are not human.
Keeping families and friends divided is unforgivable.
No dictator can last forever. History shows that in the end, people around the dictator bring about change. Of course, a lot of high-ranking officials don’t want change because they want to keep power. But there are other good people who want change. I believe they are waiting for the chance.
History has proved that dictators can’t last forever.
When I was growing up, my mum was doing illegal smuggling with China. Sometimes she would see a fortune teller for advice. One time I went with her: ‘In your future, you’ll be living in foreign country and eating the foreign country rice,’ she said.
My favourite place in South Korea is Jeju Island: it’s a tropical paradise with sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and the magnificent Geomunoreum lava tube system of underground caves.
North Koreans are forced to work at state jobs in a moribund economy. Countless parents watch their children go to bed hungry. Many North Korean families feel they have no option but to try to escape.
Certainly in North Korea, man is always superior to woman. Even the government treats women horribly. What is the slogan? Woman is a flower.
I lived near the border with China, and one night, I simply left home and walked across the iced-over river that separated the two countries. I was fortunate that my family had close relationships with some of the border guards, so I was able to cross without incident.
When I was young, I thought Kim il-Sung or Kim Jong-il is hero.
In communism, we never had any freedom – of movement, of speech, of press. We didn’t even make own decisions for our lives, our future. We were human robots.
I hate the Chinese government. If you do not want to embrace North Korean defectors in your country, I understand. But we have a country where we can seek asylum. So please, let us freely pass through. Why are you doing your best to try and catch defectors?