A North Korean refugee cartoonist draws what life is like for those who escape

An online comic strip series created by a North Korean refugee, who now lives in Seoul, attempts to bring some humor to what is an often-harrowing journey and difficult resettlement.

After his defection to South Korea in 2010, Choi Seong-gok, 37, soon realized that the two Koreas were no longer the same country — many cultural and linguistic differences have arisen during more than 70 years of division.

Choi once worked for Pyongyang’s premier animation studio, SEK. In 2016, he returned to drawing and began an online comic strip series called “Rodong Shimmun,” which means “labor interrogation” — it’s a play on the name of North Korea’s “Rodong Shinmun,” the labor newspaper.

The satirical series follows a group of newly arrived refugees as they spend their first months in South Korea at a government–run integration center. Choi pokes fun at their ‘newbie-ness,’ like their shock about all the food at a buffet restaurant.

Not all of Choi’s drawings are funny, though. Some depict scenes in North Korea of people starving in the streets. Others portray how some defectors made their escape under fire from border guards.

Choi says he hopes his comic series will help change the mindset of South Koreans, who are generally apathetic toward North Korean refugees. And it might be working.

“Rodong Shimmun” now receives tens of thousands of views and some readers leave comments saying it’s helped them better understand the cultural differences between North and South Korea. Others write that they feel more empathetic toward defectors.

[Read full PRI article]

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