These days, markets throughout North Korea are not just a place for buying food, clothes and household goods. They have also become the clearing house for information from the outside world, a place where USB sticks loaded with foreign movies and soap operas can be bought.
A documentary, Jangmadang Generation, came about after North Korean escapees kept telling Sokeel Park, South Korea country director for LiNK (Liberty in North Korea), that the change inside the country was important. LiNK decided to make the film, to show that young North Koreans are not brainwashed automatons and are not just victims. That they have agency, and that they are at the forefront of social change inside North Korea.
“This is the most closed and repressive country in the world,” said Park, who directed and narrates the film. “But we wanted to let the audience see North Koreans are relatable people, to see that many of these people have experienced incredible loss and tragedy, but to also see the dynamism that is happening across the country.”
All the members of the Jangmadang Generation featured in the film escaped to South Korea, where they are now studying at universities or making their own way in the world. While older North Koreans often struggle to adapt to the fast-paced and ruthless capitalism of the South, people of this generation usually settle right in.
“Our generation grew up learning about and seeing freedom while being repressed by the government at the same time,” Huh Shimon said. “So our desire for freedom is strong.”
Asked to define freedom, he said: “Freedom means being able to work in a certain place if you want and not if you don’t want, being able to do your own business if you want, living where you want and being able to go where you want.”