24-year-old artist An Su-min, who fled North Korea as a teenager in 2011, starts off: “In North Korea, you don’t have any freedom of movement. There is almost no electricity. The culture is very restrictive. You have no freedom to wear what you want. It’s also a dictatorship, but I only learned about the concept of dictatorship after I came to South Korea.
“Coming to South Korea was the easy bit. Adjusting to life here wasn’t easy. …But now I’m used to it, the language, the culture and the level of stress. I reached puberty after coming to South Korea, so that added a lot of stress in my life.
“Right now, I’m studying at college. After I graduate, I’ll be in a position to do stuff that I want to do. …We really need a degree to do well in life. That’s why I’m focusing my efforts on my studies right now.
“Afterwards, given my skills as an artist, I could also teach North Korean refugees in Europe and help them out. That’s my plan.
“People outside North Korea have this fascination about life in my country. But if you’re living in the North, and you spend your entire life there, it’s just a way of life. You know of no other way. …You don’t think seriously about dictatorship. Even if you know what that is, you consider it a natural part of your life.
“Would I ever go back? … I’m stressed out here in South Korea but, no matter how much stress I’m under, I wouldn’t ever go back to North Korea.”