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!

Humans of North Korea: This is freedom

April 29, 2021

I got foreign media from my dad. He was a member of the Korean Workers Party and many of his friends were security agents. They confiscated a lot of foreign media and gave it to my dad and he would bring it home.

Some of my most vivid memories are getting together with my friends at someone’s house, shutting off all the lights, and secretly watching South Korean dramas. It was exhilarating. If you heard anything outside, you’d get startled and think,

“Did they come to arrest us? Are we going to jail now?” It was thrilling doing things we knew we shouldn’t do.

Everything portrayed in the South Korean dramas was so clean and everyone seemed so wealthy. I used to think “Wow, there is such a world out there.” We were taught that South Korea was a poor country but I wondered, “Why can’t we live like that?”

I wanted to wear clothes from the dramas but I couldn’t find them anywhere. We used to get a lot of used clothes from the market down by the harbor. You either find used clothes or fabric and have a tailor make the outfit for you. After three or four days of wearing a new style, everyone would be wearing the same thing because it looked so cool.

My designs were very popular. If I started wearing something new, there was always someone who would wear similarly styled clothes because the number of South Korean dramas that inspired us was so limited. Girls would ask me where I got my clothes and if I wanted to exchange outfits. Bartering was very common and sometimes they’d offer their more expensive clothes in exchange for mine.

But you had to look out for the Inspection Unit. If they caught you wearing jeans and a hoodie, they’d cut the bottom of the jeans with scissors. My sister and brother were older than me so their friends were sometimes in the Inspection Unit. If I knew the person, I would just tell them, “I’ll go change right now” or “I’ll give you these jeans but please don’t cut the bottoms off” and I would go get it back from them later.

The regime doesn’t want people wearing those kinds of clothes. I think it’s because things like jeans symbolize freedom. North Korean society is so restricted that if they allowed jeans there would be no end to what people would want to wear.

Even now in South Korea, every time I put on a pair of jeans I think, “This is freedom.”

- Jihyun Kang
escaped North Korea in 2009. She now works in the fashion industry in Seoul.

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