In most societies, people think that having a large HD-TV is a sign of wealth and is highly desired. This is not the case in North Korea. In Jo Il’s hometown, and other cities around North Korea, the desirable item to own is a Notel—a small netbook/television hybrid. The Notel is the go-to media player, in part, because of the lack of consistent electricity in North Korea.
In Jo Il’s hometown, electricity would come in at most two to three times a month, or at the least, once every few months. When the power turned on, people would rush—not to cook or to work—but to charge their devices. The electricity we often take for granted is in scarce supply in North Korea. Jo Il talked about this lack of electricity in a joking manner, but he became dead serious when asked what life in South Korea would be like. “First off: there is electricity, right?”
It was not only the lack of electricity that drove Jo Il to leave his home country. He was also tired of the lack of fair work opportunities where one would be paid for one’s worth. Jo Il’s wife was the breadwinner in the house, and he was tired of not being able to financially take care of his family. He ended up smugglings goods across the border to provide for his family, but was eventually jailed for it. At times during his imprisonment, he had to survive on five small potatoes a day. He was only able to evade being sent to a labor camp through bribes and having the right connections.
“There are absolutely no human rights [in North Korea].” Jo Il states this, but looks hopefully towards the future in his new home country. He’s heard good things about South Korea, and although he’s not 100% sure what life will be like for him, he knows that this is the time to go. Jo Il has heard from others that they regret not leaving North Korea sooner. He is happy to be out, but he will not rest until other family members and friends are brought out to safety.
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