Sunday, June 27, 2010

The System of Defecting

by Suki Kim

I love reading about North Korea.  There is something so peculiar about the country's very continued existence in today's world, that I find irresistible.  I'm always most interested in articles or stories that tell of peoples' daily lives, although tales of escape and integration into the modern world also interest me.

In Suki Kim's new article, she travels to Yanji, the Chinese town on the North Korean border, to interview new refugees and the brokers who help them escape.  The route from North Korea to South runs through China, usually involving long journeys to Mongolia or Thailand before being flown to the South.  Few North Koreans would have the resources or knowledge of such a trip, and so they rely on brokers like Kim Seong Min and Yoo Sang Joon for help in getting where they want to go.

Kim is involved with an elaborate network of churches who fund his efforts, while Yoo prefers to do things completely on his own.  At the beginning of the article, the author meets Sun Ja, a newly arrived defector.  What follows is a loosely structured article that provides a general understanding of the complexities of this whole business.  Some churches seem only interested in helping Christians, while others sometimes hold on to defectors for their own fund-raising and propaganda purposes.

As always with articles about North Korea, this piece only scratches at the surface of an infinitely complex problem, but it does provide some interesting perspectives, and it is highly readable.

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