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What Life Is Like In North Korea, According To A Defector

What Life Is Like In North Korea, According To A Defector

Hyun-Seung Lee left the country following the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek.

A former resident of North Korea has described what it is like to live in the infamously secretive country.

Hyun-Seung Lee lived in North Korea until he was 29 years old, at which point he and some family members managed to escape and make their way to America, where he now works as director of the D.C. office of the Korean Conservative Political Action Conference. 

Despite being home to more than 25 million people, detailed insights into life in the country are scarce, and those living there are strictly controlled in all areas of daily life.

In the near-three decades Lee lived in the country, he told The Daily Signal Podcast he had no real understanding of the idea of freedom or human rights, but that without knowing any different he just saw his life as 'an ordinary citizen'.

Residents are monitored so closely that Lee felt he couldn't even speak freely in his own home, explaining: 'I believe that in my home, there [were] bugs or listening devices, so honestly, when we were in North Korea among our family, we cannot share honest opinion[s].'

Children were 'forced' to join organisations such as Boy Scouts or 'a socialist news league', meaning that from kindergarten kids were 'naturally being taught that America is our enemy'.

The director grew up in what he described as a 'so-called elite environment', where he went to 'kind of high state education' before having chance to study abroad in China, where he graduated from college. At 17 years old he joined the military, and it was while serving that he 'experienced what the ordinary citizen's life actually is'.

Kim Jong-un (Alamy)
Kim Jong-un (Alamy)

He explained: 'So I visited their home and then I saw their life with my naked eye. So I realised that, 'Oh, this is not the country [that] propaganda [described]'.'

When he was around 19 or 20, Lee realised what he was being taught about North Korea in the country was 'not true', because there 'the regime emphasises that North Korea is the best country in the world and the best leader in the world'.

'And while I’m watching South Korean dramas and American movies… there’s a totally different society,' Lee said.

He began to question why the 'living' was 'so poor' in North Korea if it was supposed to be the best country in the world, and why residents weren't allowed to leave the country while everyone else could 'travel freely to visit another country'.

North Korean capital (Alamy)
North Korean capital (Alamy)

Though he had these questions, Lee struggled to find answers due to his inability to share them with others in the country. When he was in China, he was able to access the internet and find information about North Korea to allow him to 'understand how the world sees' the country'.

The defector described the truth as 'very brutal', saying: 'So everybody’s talking about human rights in North Korea, sanctions, and missile nuclear development. And then I agreed with their opinion.'

Lee and his family decided to flee North Korea following the execution of Kim Jong Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek. After spending some time in South Korea, they made their way to America in 2016.

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Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Life, North Korea, World News