Joong Wha Choi, 48, was formerly a government business consultant in North Korea who defected and is now president of the North Korean Residents Society, an organization aimed at helping refugees settle into their new lives in the UK, as well as informing the public about the human rights offenses taking place in North Korea.
After Joong Wha defected to China, he would send money he earned back to family in North Korea through a network of brokers happy to undertake the illegal transfers for a hefty commission. However, he soon realized that all the money in the world wouldn’t change life for his relatives, that the government in North Korea had to change for anything to become truly different.
I asked him if many North Korean defectors feel a duty to bring about change in their home country. His response: “I sometimes say to myself that it would be great if there was somebody else who risked their life to escape and could be the one to get things done.”
He paused, and then continued, looking weary. “In the past, there have been systems run by kings and queens, and even these monarchies would give some acknowledgement to the welfare of their people. But not the North Korean government—all they want to protect is their own power. I live a comfortable life now here in the UK, but this is a society that somebody else has worked hard for, and I have come to enjoy somebody else’s sacrifice.”