North Korea Shows Off "Forgiven" Defectors To Western Media

Sameera Ehteram
North Korea wants to prove its "benevolence and forgiveness" (when it's not executing people for minor crimes) by parading defectors for media.

CNN just released a video of a meeting with former North Korean defectors, and while it may seem amazing that Pyongyang allowed such an interview, the sinister meaning quickly becomes clear.

The CNN team was led in to a room that had eight young North Koreans, who in 2013 were caught while being smuggled from China into Laos by South Korean missionaries.

The world imagined an ominous fate of the captured children. But two years on, here they were, sitting in front of the CNN crew ready to be interviewed. The very fact that North Korea allowed, in fact provided an interview to the outside world, is amazing enough. What the youth had to say went even beyond that.

When asked why they left, 17-year-old Ri Gwang Hyok replied, "We were young. We just went to China for fun."

When probed further, 21-year-old Mun Chol admitted, "Frankly, we had some family difficulties. We had been through a period in our history we call 'the arduous march (the years of famine).' We were not living well. I was young and naive. We were living by the Amnok river, which is at the border. I meant to return home. I was curious."

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"The missionary lectured us about freedom," recalled Mun Chol. "But we weren't given any freedom. He forced us to study God and memorize religious books.

"Of course, the food was good," he added, "but that was our only pleasure. When you have food things seem OK, but a kid needs more than that."

"The missionary said we would be killed if we went back," added Mun Chol. "He told us our families had been killed because we had left our homes."

It’s interesting to hear that from someone who belongs to a country where executions are part of a norm.

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The planned and much rehearsed answers from these young North Koreans may make it sound like all is good, in fact better than that, for them and others in their country. But for those who know the hermit kingdom, the whole scenario seems chilling to the bone.

Accounts of what life is like in North Korea by defected people like Yeonmi Park and Shin Dong-hyuk tell a different tale.

Park likened life in North Korea to a holocaust. While talking at the One Young World summit in Dublin, she described how, when she was only 9, she witnessed her mother's friend being publicly executed for watching South Korean and Hollywood films and lending the DVDs to friends.

Poverty and famine is a constant horror in the country. A majority of North Korean population suffers from severe food crisis. Amnesty International reported that North Korea remains dependent on food aid to feed its people. Harrowing tales of North Koreans crossing border in to China and killing people there for food and even resorting to cannibalism abound. 

But these children say all is well. In fact it is hunky dory.

"I feel like a pauper who has become a prince," said Ri Gwang Hyok.

But then they were escorted and chaperoned by government officials during the interview. It’s not really that astounding why they had nothing negative to say about their homeland.

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