North Korean defector Eun Kim on adapting to South Korea

In  A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape From North Korea, Eunsun Kim gives us a glimpse into everyday life in North Korea behind the “Bamboo Curtain.” She now lives in Seoul and offers insights on the major differences between North and South Korean culture:

North and South Korea both speak Korean, but for North Korean refugees the most difficult thing is the language difference. In South Korea, they speak “Konglish”. A lot of words are different.

Communication is very different. North Koreans communicate more directly; South Koreans communicate indirectly. For example, if a North Korean refugee has a job interview, and the owner says, ‘I will call you if we need you,’ the North Korean refugee will wait for a month for the company to call. Then, he will call the company back and say, ‘You said you would call me, but you didn’t, what’s happened?’

The humor is also different. Even today, if I watch a [South Korean comedy], I won’t laugh because I don’t find it funny.

The most difficult thing [about adapting to life in South Korea] was the loneliness, because we had no relatives there. But it was a new place and we had to learn—like a baby taking its first steps—how to go the market, how to ask a question, everything. When I went to high school, the most confusing thing was learning about Korea. In North Korea, we learned South Korea invaded. Here they taught us that North Korea invaded South Korea.

North Korea is a big prison. People live there, but they have no human rights. So we need to open the prison and give people freedom. It’s not only North Korea’s problem.  It’s a global problem.

I believe a little movement can bring huge change in North Korea. It’s already changing faster than ever before. Videos and USB’s are being smuggled in from South Korea all the time and through those media young people are learning about other worlds outside North Korea and to have their own ideas.

And even if Kim Jung Un is a psychopath, he’s trying to change things, he seems to be shifting North Korea towards capitalism. Before, North Korea really hated Western things. Now a lot of people use these things.

[National Geographic]

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