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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Kim Seong Min

Interviewed May 21, 2024

I escaped from North Korea in February 1999. I think that the same goes for the other North Korean defectors, that our motivation comes from hatred of the Kim Jong Il [Kim Jong Il was the dictator of North Korea from 1994 until his death in 2011.] regime and a chance to prosper in South Korea. I had two uncles and a grandmother living in South Korea. My grandmother had three sons and one of her sons was my father. My family was the only one who ended up living in North Korea while the rest were living in South Korea. When he passed away on his deathbed, his wish was for me to find our relatives in South Korea.

From there I served 16 years in the North Korean military and it was there, when I became an officer, that I encountered South Korean leaflets and radio broadcasting. That’s when I realized that I can contact South Korea so with the help of ethnic Koreans living in China, I tried to write letters to my uncles in South Korea. The letters ended up in the hands of a journalist of a magazine and we exchanged letters about three times. However, the security police in North Korea found out about this and I heard from a friend who worked with the security police that they were going to arrest me. That´s when I defected from North Korea. If these incidents had not occurred, I would still be in North Korea today.

To describe to you about my family, my father was a famous writer in North Korea. He was a professor at the Kim Jong Il University. My mother was also famous. She was a renowned female journalist in North Korea. I am the only son in my family. I grew up my entire life in Pyongyang and I attended elementary and middle school there. When I turned 17, I enlisted in the North Korea army for ten years as a solider. When my term was almost up, I was recommended by the party seniors and commissioned to a teacher’s college. I was assigned to a 600/20 training camp where I worked at the officer of arts and propaganda.

In North Korea, I was very loyal to Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung. [Kim Il Sung was the founder of North Korea’s communist state and ruled from 1948 until his death in 1994, when he was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il.] There was no one event that caused me to join the movement against North Korea. But when I came to South Korea I could understand why the North Korean regime went wrong. I also had a brief brush with the North Korean secret police when I was first arrested in China then extradited back to North Korea. There I was able to see the atrocities that the North Korean regime did in the prisons.

These memories still haunt me in my nightmares. When I arrived in South Korea, I could not do anything so I organized the organizations for defectors. I was head of several of these organizations but now I am the head of the Free North Korea Radio and I take great pride in what I do.