North Korean defector Kang Nara: “I’m glad I became a celebrity”

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The lures of online fame have lassoed North Korean defectors. Born in one of the world’s most information-repressed regimes, some young defectors in Seoul are now saturating the internet, plying their life stories for followers and cash-generating clicks.

Blessed with a K-pop idol’s good looks, Kang Nara, 22, is so famous that she gets recognized walking around her college campus. A fan club showers her with cakes and congratulatory banners. Dubbed the “North Korean beauty” by local media, she specializes in videos lampooning bad North Korean film accents and reviewing makeup.

The audience largely comes from South Koreans, who not long ago participated in national school competitions where students produced anticommunist poems and posters. But ties between the two Koreas have warmed of late, sparking wider interest about defectors and the Kim regime.

The fascination has even extended to non-Koreans like Zac Phoenix, a 30-year-old English teacher from the U.K., who lives in Seoul. He’s a fan of Mr. Heo’s videos, which carry English subtitles. “Western media is obsessed with North Korea but I want to know: What’s the real story besides the nukes?” Mr. Phoenix says.

According to Park Su Hyang, 28, a defector who fled North Korea in 2009, many North Koreans drink regularly, buying home-brewed rice liquor from neighbors rather than at a store, says. But nobody imbibes on July 8, the day honoring the death of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the North’s dynastic state.

“On that day there’s no drinking, no partying, no smiling,” Ms. Park says.

[Washington Post]

This entry was posted in by Grant Montgomery.

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