Five questions with a North Korean defector

Filmmaker Kim Gyoo-min escaped the DPRK via China when he was 25 after being sentenced to hard labour for disloyalty towards the Workers’ Party. The Asia Media Centre spoke to him in March about his homeland and the North Korean regime.

Kim Gyoo Min

Kim Gyoo Min: “I want the North and South to share a liberal democracy.”

On the ‘One Korea’ dream

I defected in 2000 because I did not want to live under a Communist dictatorship. I want the North and South to share a liberal democracy. Reunification would mean I can finally meet my family again, and return to my homeland.

On North Korea’s peace efforts

I cannot with certainty say they are sincere, but it is possible they are genuine about working towards peace on the Peninsula because the situation inside North Korea is terrible. I think the dictatorship will try to avoid more restrictions and save time.

On hostility from the North

My opinion is there is no way North Korea can feasibly start a war. In a free nation, citizens are able to vote out their leaders and welcome new ones, but the death of a dictator would mean a complete collapse of the state and government.

On President Moon Jae-in

I don’t like him personally. He is too friendly with North Korea. People think peaceful talks will produce a good outcome, but engaging with North Korea on friendly terms, and giving them what they want each time, will only give the dictatorship more power to cause pain and death to North Korean people.

On the Olympics diplomacy

I disagreed with the move to field a joint women’s ice-hockey team, because the South Korean players were deprived of their opportunity. Moon’s government dogmatically pushed through the decision without any prior communication. Also, what people don’t know is the North Korean players, cheerleaders and cultural art group would have had enormous amounts of ideological education before arriving in South Korea. It is perfectly possible for one of them to have been sent to a concentration camp based on what they said or how they behaved in South Korea.

Kim Gyoo-min is director of Winter Butterfly (2011), a film based on a true story of a woman in his hometown who ate her child during the North Korean famine. 

– Asia Media Centre


Interview by Francine Chen in Seoul on the sidelines of the World Journalists Conference 2018, hosted and funded by the Journalists Association of Korea.