About 20,000 Korean immigrants live in New Malden, a suburb of southwest London. Approximately 600 of these immigrants are from North Korea, which is among the highest concentrations of North Korean refugees anywhere in the world. Certainly in Europe, New Malden is the closest thing to a “Little Pyongyang.”
In New Malden you may meet Joo-il Kim, a North Korean defector and editor of the Free NK newspaper. The Free NK newspaper was established to bring news from the rest of the world to North Korean citizens, as well as raising awareness of what really goes on in North Korea to the international community.
“We see this as the first stage, where we distribute the newspaper to the international community—mainly to the European communities—in order to raise awareness of what really goes on in North Korea,” said Joo-il. “Some articles are provided by correspondents in North Korea, and some are provided by other news companies that we have contracts with.”
Joo-il explains: “On first defecting, you’re hurt by the fact that a country you gave your life to—a country I trusted—actually deceived me and failed to protect its own people. My initial reaction was to swear to myself to never be deceived again, and I wanted to give up any sort of principles, ideologies, and any goals. I just wanted to protect myself and my brothers and sisters; I didn’t think about doing anything for the greater good or for other people.”
Now he says: “It is my duty to change things for future generations in North Korea.”
For Joo-il, the eventual goal is reunification of the North and South, and he sees the current community in New Malden as a good model for this—a place where North, South, and Chinese-Koreans all live together without incident.