She was a pretty girl, who was aged around thirty. That was my first recollection of the North Korean defector when I first saw her on a bus tour in Seoul, Korea. I certainly couldn’t speak to her, but my South Korean wife certainly could. So this is her story, which is one of bravery, but also very sad.

The Korean woman (her name is unknown) triumphed and risked everything to give her daughter a better life. She lost so much also, forced to leave her native land. However, the result was freedom, a better world and a better experience. This tale of the triumph of a phenomenal woman is the story of the first and only defector of any kind that I have ever met.

It’s the day I met a North Korean defector when on a tour DMZ Tour in the year 2016.


Korean defector

A North Korean Defector makes her way into South Korea.


The Day I Met a North Korean Defector


Leaving North Korea

It was at least twelve months of planning. To find the right authorities, a secret group so to speak, and escape North Korea to the borders of China. She kept it all a secret to those close to her, including her husband. She explained that he would not have had anything to do with such an escape and would forbid it at all cost. So secrecy it had to be. I can only imagine how difficult that would have been for her.

In the middle of a night, after months of preparation, secrecy and fear. She left her house with her daughter in tow, forced to drug her daughter with sleeping tablets so she would be quiet during the escape When all appeared safe during the still of the night, this brave woman, her daughter and a group of other hopeful defectors they headed for the borders. The escape for mum and daughter went smoothly as they made it to China without hiccup and freedom was so close.


Settling in South Korea

The transition was entirely smooth into her new life in South Korea, with The South Korean government helping her and the daughter get on their feet and well settled in Seoul. She received grants such as getting an apartment, education, money and a job.

The sacrifice she made and the bravery she showed had been rewarded with a life away from poverty. She now had a job of portraying her story to tourist and to top it off, her daughter was well educated in a new school. While I only saw her this once, she indeed appeared to be happy, go lucky person and a sure sign that her life’s brave decision had been the right one.


Sacrifices she made

Sacrifices were plenty and she lost plenty in crossing the border. The risk of getting caught could have meant death or years of hard labour in a North Korean prison. No doubt losing her daughter who would have been taken from her.

Through it all, she lost her husband, he never knew of the escape, and if he did, it would have been forbidden. She knows there is no hope that she will see her husband again, “he would never have understood,” those were her words, in Korean of course.

She lost her parents, although she communicates with them regularly by telephone, using a Chinese telecom service, it means her calls can’t be traced, and she has to be very careful not to put any harm on her family in the North. Her Hope remains she will still see them again, but that is all it remains, is hope.

It is a story of the bravery of how she went through hell, and she ended up with freedom. Many like her have attempted to flee the country, some have succeeded, many have failed. But this woman triumphed over adversity, and that is the story of the only North Korean defector I have ever met.


The North Korean Defector now lives in freedom in Seoul, South Korea

The North Korean Defector now lives in freedom in Seoul, South Korea.


It is well known that the South Korean government are always keen to help those who are wishing too free themselves from the north and receive a little information from the neighbours in the north. For security reason pictures were not allowed taken of the North Korean Defector.
James Bond Island

Subscribe To Our Monthly Newsletter

Subscribe to Fair Dinkum Traveller to receive our free monthly newsletter and to be in the running for future giveaways.

You have Successfully Subscribed!