Changing the stereotypes of North Korean defectors

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A trendy haircut, eyebrow piercings and a tattoo sleeve on his arm — nothing about online personality Lee Pyung’s current appearance betrays the fact he was born under a totalitarian regime. But he was, Lee reveals in his live webcast series, 23 years ago in the city of Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province, North Korea.

Lee is one of a handful of 20- and 30-something North Korean defectors who have recently begun telling their stories on Afreeca, an online streaming platform where broadcasters earn money according to the number of viewers. Lee’s live streams tell candid stories of life above the peninsula’s 38th parallel and aim to “relate to young people.”

“South Koreans’ perceptions of North Korea are a lot different from what I know about the country,” said Lee in a webcast last month, also uploaded to YouTube. He has received all sorts of questions from viewers, including “Do North Koreans really eat human flesh?” and “Is everybody trained to be a spy?” which he’s called “outrageous.”

Lee began streaming online because he “wanted to change the stereotypes of North Korean defectors, especially among the younger South Korean generation who are less familiar with North Korea.”

He hated that many South Koreans seemed prejudiced against defectors, viewing them as “poor” or “fanatical communists.”

The young escapee’s stories seem to have found an audience. Since his online debut in May, Lee has made on average 5 million won ($4,460) per month, with last month’s earnings soaring much higher. His YouTube video detailing how he escaped has attracted over 1 million views. He works out of a streaming studio, equipped with a computer, camera and microphone. Read more

This entry was posted in by Grant Montgomery.

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