4 Myths about North Korea

Let’s be honest. We’ve heard them before, but some of these are just bad. Here are 4 myths about North Korea and why they're completely wrong!

Myth 1: North Korea is just Kim Jong Un and nukes.

News flash: North Korea is more than Kim Jong-un and nuclear weapons. It’s home to 25 million people who face one of the world’s most brutal regimes. The media headlines obsess over Kim Jong Un and nuclear warfare. But the North Korean people and their stories remind us that it is a country of people with potential and hope. Read stories of the North Korean people here.

Myth 2: The North Korean people are all brainwashed.

Goosestepping soldiers and images of hysterical crowds cheering for the Kim family are what the regime wants the world to see. But it’s definitely not the whole picture Even the regime’s tight control does not stop the North Korean people from becoming more aware of the outside world.

New technology and smuggled foreign goods in the Jangmadang (markets) give North Koreans new outlets to the outside. And this access to illegal foreign media is eroding loyalty to the regime. Just like any other person, North Koreans binge-watch South Korean dramas and Hollywood films—even without WiFi! Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Myth 3: North Korea is hopeless and unchanging.

Yes, the North Korean people face the world’s most authoritarian regime. But they are shaking up the status quo and challenging the regime’s control at the grassroots level. They’re starting businesses and those who are able to escape are sending money and information back into the country. The changes they’re driving are irreversible and are small steps towards change and opening inside North Korea. Time and time again, North Koreans prove their resourcefulness and resilience in a system that has failed them.

Myth 4: There’s nothing I can do for the North Korean people.

Wrong! Though it may seem like North Korea is an issue too big for any one person to solve, you can still make a direct impact on North Korean refugees today by following any of these steps:

1. Donate to make rescue missions possible.
2. Watch a real rescue mission in action!
3. Start a rescue team to fundraise and spread awareness about the North Korean issue in your school or community.
4. Start a fundraiser on Facebook to fundraise in your community to help rescue refugees.
5. Connect with the global movement for the North Korean people by following us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube!

The Red Box: Misunderstandings and Stereotypes about North Koreans

December 8, 2020

For North Korean refugees, resettling in a new society comes with many challenges. One of these challenges is overcoming the stereotypes about North Korea and the North Korean people.

In the latest episode of The Red Box, our North Korean friends and 2019 LiNK Advocacy Fellows talk about the struggle of of facing stereotypes after resettling in South Korea.

Watch as Jeongyol, Joy, Dasom, and Ilhyeok answer your questions in The Red Box Series!

Read the transcript of this episode below!

All: Welcome to the Red Box!


Are there any misunderstandings about the North Korean people that make you feel uncomfortable?

Ilhyeok: Misunderstandings?

Joy: When I first came to South Korea, was working part-time at a convenience store. I was still very young and had a very heavy North Korean accent.

In South Korea, when a customer enters the part-time employees don't really greet them. But I used to greet the customers standing and say "Welcome!" so people would ask me where I'm from.

I'd tell them that I'm from North Korea. They'd say "oh really?" After they get their stuff and put them on the counter, they'd asked me if I ever had jjajangmyun or pork in North Korea? They'd ask me these types of questions. Some people ask because  they don't know but sometimes they ask questions that insinuate that we were all so poor in North Korea. Not everyone in North Korea is like that. There's people who live well too

Jeongyol: If someone asked me that, I’d tell them I might've lived a wealthier life there [in North Korea].

Joy: So those types of questions made me feel a little uncomfortable.

Jeongyol: A lot of people think like that.

Dasom: People think that all North Koreans are poor, ignorant, and uneducated. People have told me that even though I must have starved and lived poorly in North Korea, I don't look the part.

Maybe some people did or didn't have enough food to eat. There are poor people and there are rich people too. Every country is the same — it’s the same in South Korea too. There are rich, poor, and homeless people in South Korea too. I don't think it's right to judge someone like that. It made me feel very uncomfortable

Jeongyol: When I was in high school, there was a soccer match between North Korea and South Korea. But all of a sudden they asked me which team I'm cheering for. So I was startled by the question.

Should I say I'm cheering for North Korea or South Korea? What's my identity?

Even though I'm living in South Korea as a South Korean citizen, they didn't recognize the fact that I'm also South Korean. That we were the same people.

So at the time I answered, "I'm not cheering for either team. I don't care who wins. I’m just watching the game for fun.” It went over smoothly but afterward I kept thinking about it. But now that I think about it…It wasn't my choice to be born in North Korea.

Dasom: Right

Jeongyol: I could've been born in the U.S. but somehow I was born in North Korea.

Anyone could've been born in North Korea.

It's not anyone's fault. So from that moment on, I became confident. I am just who I am.

Ilhyeok: I have this older friend from China. During holidays like in January, he'd always ask me if I am visiting my hometown. Whenever he asks me that question, I want to be able to tell him that I'm am going [home] but I can't because I can't go back so I just don’t answer him. When he asked me if I'm going home, I just wished that I could return home one day.

It's heartbreaking not being able to go home.

During Chuseok and New Year's Day, those two holidays are when I miss home the most.

Joy: One uncomfortable question for me was when I was in school or met people was when they asked me why there's no riot or uprising in North Korea. Sometimes people ask because they really don't know but sometimes they insinuate that we're cowards.

And with that viewpoint, they ask why we won't revolt against the government. I try to explain but they still insist and say, ”But you guys still should have done something.” That makes me a little sad.

In North Korea, there's a system of monitoring each other. So if one person says something bad, they'd get reported right away and taken.

Jeongyol: In South Korea there were a lot of civil riots so they ask why we didn't do anything in North Korea.

Joy: But it's a very different situation.

Jeongyol: The system doesn't allow it.


What also made me uncomfortable was if I did something wrong, people would blame it because I'm North Korean.

They say things like, “It's because she's North Korean.” That made me upset. Other people say bad things and make mistakes too. But because of one mistake they say all North Koreans are like that and that I wouldn't know things or be able to do things because I'm from North Korea.

I hated hearing that so I wouldn't tell anyone that I was from North Korea.

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