Conflicts & War

North Korean defector Jihyun Park:  Kim Jong Un’s regime dehumanizes citizens

By Enrique Rubio

London, Jun 23 (EFE).- New technology has tightened North Korea’s borders, chronic food shortages are on the rise and leader Kim Jong Un’s tyrannical policies continue to suppress society but defector Jihyun Park Hunger says the worst thing is that her compatriots are forced to forget that they are human beings.

Now based in the United Kingdom where she arrived in 2008 after a gruesome journey, Park tells EFE how Kim’s regime has eliminated from the minds and hearts of its citizens any glimmer of individualized existence.

“In North Korea there are two emotions. One is happiness, one is hatred: So happiness emotion is always with the regime. Regime is happy and the people are happy. And they tell us hate America, hate the South Koreans, hate anti-socialism countries or people. So this affects all people when they are born, so people forget what a personal emotion is,” she says.

Park has ended up in a place where she could never have dreamed of while living in North Korea.

Not only is she free to express her opinions leading her to and even write a book “The Hard Road Out” about her experience but, above all else, she has reminded herself that she is a person.

She wrote the book with South Korean Seh-Lynn Chai, who would ask her questions about her previous life.

“That’s how I found out that yes, I am a human being, although all of us have forgotten it.”

She came to the realization in 2012 while having dinner with her family in the city of Bury (northwest England).

Her children were talking about school things and something unexpected awoke within her.

“When I saw my children’s smiling face, I realized that I was feeling something in here. I don’t know I cried I just had to cry at that moment. That is the first time was feeling my individual personal emotion with my family,” she recalls, visibly moved.

No family photos adorn the walls of North Korean homes.

Any relative could be a regime informer, she says.

When babies are born it is the portraits of three leaders that they see.

“There is a physical father and mother, but we don’t bow down to them. We only bow down to Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un.”

Park says it is very difficult for people in the West to truly comprehend the kind of system North Koreans are under.

“It’s not socialism, it’s not communism, but a totalitarian country (…) Ideology is religion. That’s why we call Kim Il Sun, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un father, and the Workers’ Party mother,” she continues.


Park first fled North Korea in 1998 with her brother, who had been sentenced to death. But the man who helped them cross into China betrayed her and she was sold into slavery, before being returned to North Korea, where she was held in a labor camp.

In 2004 she escaped to China again.

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