South Korean television shows that feature North Koreans have transformed defectors’ attitudes toward speaking publicly about their experiences and identity.
After studying fellow defectors and their relationship to South Korean media, Ken Eom said after three such television shows gained widespread popularity, defectors shed their old habit of silence. North Koreans on television are emboldening others to speak out. Beyond the money and the merits of a measure of fame, defectors are also motivated by an opportunity to “rebuild the credibility of the North Korean refugee community”.
“After the TV shows [began to be watched], defectors were no longer afraid to talk about their story in public,” Eom said during a presentation of his thesis. The defector, who is in his 30s, added the shows, sometimes geared to bringing on the laughs with light-hearted tales, are far from perfect; they’re not well liked by the defector community, with some defectors have been accused by other defectors of “fake testimonies” on television.
Eom asked his interview subjects what they thought about the shows. “It was very surprising,” said Eom. “They really hate those TV shows. But they also say it’s necessary. Without TV, nobody knows of the North Korean refugee.”
Eom feels South Koreans “really don’t care” about North Koreans. Stereotypes about the regime’s abysmal human rights record, its prison camps and nuclear weapons program, deeply hurt defectors. But the shows, despite their flaws, provide many North Koreans with a rare opportunity to present their stories and to “just talk about their normal lives.”
“It’s better than nothing,” Eom said.
This entry was posted in North Korean refugee by Grant Montgomery.