Are ‘N Korean defectors’ traitors?

18-Sep-2021 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 5:20 PM Print This Post

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, has accused North Koreans in South Korea of being defectors, defining this word as being synonymous with “traitors and trash.” I think many of you have seen Kim Yo-jong in the media. One of her roles is being the North’s voice who places all blame on South Korea.

Those words used in her statement are not good words, right? Not to mention, they are so negative.

The North Korean regime always accuses North Koreans like me who left the regime as being traitors. Also, the world calls us North Korean defectors. And you know what? One of the more obscure synonyms for “defector” is “traitor.”

One day, this made me ask, “Am I a traitor?” Today, I want to talk about the words defector and traitor by looking back on my life in North Korea.

My father was a teacher in North Korea. He was an elementary school teacher and also worked?as a carpenter.

However, his income was only about $3 a month. Not $300 or $3,000 ― just three dollars. In many parts of North Korea, regardless of whether you work as a teacher, doctor or public servant, people were getting paid about $3 a month when I was there. To put this bluntly, North Koreans are working as slaves.

The thing is, you cannot buy 1 kilogram of?rice with the money, far from enough to feed a family.

So my mother had to do something that I called a “business” ― or maybe smuggling. She went to China to sell things like copper, silver, even animals like frogs. That’s how my family could survive.

Because of that, she went to prison many times because that kind of business was illegal in North Korea. But she managed to get out by offering bribes. One day, she went to China, and never came back.?She did not want to go to prison again.

That’s how the rest of my family got separated from my mother. This happened when I was eight years old. After she left, my family suffered from hunger.

Seven years later, she contacted me and asked me, “Why don’t you join me in China?” I said yes. There was no reason to stay in North Korea. I knew that at least I would not have to worry about having enough food in China.

In South Korea, there are about 34,000 North Korean defectors. Most of them left North Korea because of?severe hunger. I am one of them. We got nothing from the regime but hunger.

For this reason, when I think about North Korea, most of my childhood memories are related to starving.

Now, I want to ask you: Does leaving North Korea to escape from hunger mean I am a traitor?

I lived in China for nine months in 2006, and I came to South Korea in 2007.

One thing I got to know after I started to live in South Korea was that living here is much better than living in North Korea. There is no comparison no match. I can use a computer, the internet, and most importantly, hunger is not a problem here.

The North Korean regime usually propagates that North Korea is a paradise on earth. The regime says North Koreans have nothing to envy in the world, which is not true. However, I used to believe that was true because I had been brainwashed.

Of course, I don’t buy it anymore. North Korea was almost hell, and when I chose to leave it to come to South Korea, it felt like paradise. Because of this decision I made, the North Korean regime accuses North Koreans like me of being defectors/traitors.

I want to ask you again: Does choosing paradise over hell mean I am a traitor?

The funny thing is, many people in South Korea, including the media, call North Koreans defectors. That’s the same word that the North Korean regime is using.

Fourteen years ago, when I first arrived to South Korea, I was afraid of being called a defector. I tried to hide my background because I am from North Korea and North Korea is an enemy to South Korea.

However, I don’t mind revealing my background anymore. I always talk about my hometown, Hyesan, whenever I introduce myself to someone.

Today, one of the reasons that I am here is not to ask you what to call me. I think it’s pointless to focus on the meaning of the words for North Koreans because the important thing is what kind of life you live.

But I want to ask you to take a moment to think about the meaning of the label “North Korean?defectors,” especially if you sincerely want to talk about the lives of North Koreans. Sometimes labels determine who you are.

Kim Yo-jong calls North Koreans like me traitors. Many other people around the world refer to us using the same word.

Do I look like a defector? A traitor? What do you think?


Category: Korea

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