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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Kim Seong Min

Interviewed June 23, 2024

The first way to defect from North Korea is the rare case of stowing away onto a plane or ship and to arrive onto South Korean territory. The second way, which is also rare, is for the North Korean soldiers to cross over the DMZ [The Demilitarized Zone or DMZ is the heavily fortified border dividing North and South Korea.] and defect into South Korea. The more common way is to cross the border into China. The border guards are less strict that the soldiers at the DMZ area. But once they enter China, the Chinese secret police are on the look out for North Korean defectors.

They have to choose which method is the best to enter South Korea. Some of them get help from brokers from organizations and act as guides. Some of them go to the Korean embassies. Some go to other embassies such as the Japanese or European nations that also help out these defectors. They stay at the embassies for about two or three months before being sent to a third nation. From that third nation they are able to go to South Korea from either Mongolia, some go to Thailand, and some even go further to Vietnam, Laos, or even Cambodia.

So there are about fix or six routes. From the early 1970’s, whenever there was a North Korean defector who made it to South Korea, there would be about 100,000 people in Seoul to celebrate and welcome the defectors. According to the information we found, these defectors were given a lot of money as settlement. But ever since then, the number of defectors has increased and there is a race between who has the better system between South Korean and North Korea, the South Korean people’s support for the North Korean defectors has been reduced. For example the settlement money decreased and there are no more public celebrations.

Today there are about 20,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea. The South Korean government began a social system which can’t be matched anywhere in the world for supporting the North Korean defectors. Whenever a North Korean enters South Korea, they receive a 35,000,000 won [approximately 32,000 U.S. dollars] settlement fund and leased housing. If the North Korean defectors are under the age of 30, they get free education. The education is paid by the South Korean government. Also they are given healthcare.