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(21 December 2023)

PYONGYANG. The People’s Republic of China often expels North Koreans who flee from their country to seek their fortune abroad: the complaint comes from the organization Transitional Justice Working Group (Tjwg), an NGO that monitors human rights in South Korea in various countries with repressive systems, including the one led by Kim Jong-un.

In particular, six hundred people who had emigrated illegally to China were returned to the Pyongyang authorities in October and then disappeared into thin air.

What happened to them? They probably ended up in the repressive machinery of the North Korean regime which considers anyone who flees abroad a traitor. As a result, they may be tortured, raped or put to death.



There’s also a rumor in the international press that another food crisis like the one that cost the lives of 2-3 million people in the 1990s is about to emerge near Pyongyang.

According to the FAO, the United Nations agency that deals with food and agriculture, at least 10 million North Koreans are at risk of starvation and the country needs to import food from friendly nations.

Agriculture is frequently damaged both by climatic events, at least once a year, towards the end of summer, the territory is affected by violent typhoons that destroy the crops, but also by economic sanctions decided by the United Nations.

In violation of these restrictive measures, Pyongyang imports fertilizers and hydrocarbons from China and Russia, its two best friends from which it also receives seeds.



In this context, it’s probably precisely to save money and concentrate its attention on its most trusted friends that North Korea decided to suppress its embassies in Angola, Hong Kong, Nepal, Spain, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Senegal and Guinea.

A spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said Pyongyang’s downsizing of its international presence is aimed at
«establish diplomatic missions in accordance with the evolution of the global context and national foreign policy».



In these conditions, it’s understood that emigrating may be the only prospect for a better life for many, but the risks are many: according to what books and articles that have appeared in recent years say, leaving North Korea is difficult and dangerous.

First of all, you can be intercepted by border guards or by the electronic control systems of the Sino-North Korean border, then you are completely at the hands of human traffickers who don’t hesitate to extract as much money as possible from the refugees.

If everything goes well in the end, that is, you manage to arrive safely in a country other than North Korea, there are all the uncertainties of inserting yourself into the new reality, even if it is the other Korea.



Mr. Kim is a North Korean who lives near the border with the South.

In 2022 he conceived the idea of fleeing to the other Korea, to escape the repression imposed by the Pyongyang regime, which went into panic following the spread of the pandemic.

At the beginning, when he talks about it at home, both his wife and his mother are against it, but when the wife discovers she’s pregnant she changed idea in order not to give birth in North Korea.
Even her mother-in-law, albeit reluctantly, agrees to escape.

The night of the escape is stormy: it’s February, it’s cold: winds blow from the south, the sea is rough.

Before reaching the beach where the boat is moored, Kim, his brother and family must pass through a minefield. There is the risk of being captured and executed immediately.

The fugitives are armed, the men with swords, with poison, the women: if they were intercepted they would at least sell their lives dearly.

One way or another, they reach the sea, they get on their boat, the engine starts. Due to rough seas, the North Korean navy doesn’t patrol territorial waters as it would under normal conditions.

When it is about to dawn, Kim and his family arrive near a South Korean island: here they are picked up by the Seoul border guards.

After the rescue, Kim and his family are questioned by the South Korean secret services to verify that they aren’t spies from the North, and then taught about life in the other Korea in a reintegration center.

Despite being two countries so physically close, the two Koreas are profoundly different social realities: Kim admits that his wife and mother are going through a difficult phase of adaptation. In the meantime, the baby was born and the family moved to an apartment made available by the authorities: however, the women miss North Korea and it will take time to adapt.



The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, capital Pyongyang, occupies an area of 120,538 square kilometers. and is inhabited by approximately 23 million people.

It borders China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and South Korea to the southeast.

It’s washed by the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea.

The territory is mountainous, with forested ranges to the east, on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Rice, which is the main agricultural product, is grown in the plains. 90% of the land is worked by cooperatives.

It’s a country rich in mineral resources (coal, iron, zinc, copper, lead and manganese).

The state is controlled by the Workers’ Party, the only legally recognized one.

His philosophy is called Zuche: it’s based on the principles of self-confidence, nationalism, centralized control of the economy.

Kim Jong-Un, although isn’t the President of the country, is in fact its absolute leader since he inherited it from Kim Jong-Il who in turn had received it from the founder, the “eternal leader” Kim Il-Sung.

The economy, in an autarky regime,
also hit by international sanctions, it’s also based on tourism, mainly Chinese.

The State invests a large part of its revenue on defense by manufacturing weapons, including nuclear weapons: furthermore, the ruling elite imports luxury goods for itself.


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