Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Refugees from the North Using YouTube

Born as the only son of a wealthy North Korean, he graduated from Kim Il Sung University. He grew up lacking nothing and he thought everyone lived like that. When he was studying at Beijing University, he met South Korean students and began to see the contradiction of the North Korean regime. The more you learn about the homeland, the more your values changed.

They had a reading session with about 10 North Korean students who shared the same values. Upon hearing that a member was discovered, he left the dormitory with only 50 yuan and a small bag. He knocked on the door of the Korean embassy and a Korean church, but it did not open. With the help of a stranger, he miraculously met, he was able to take a flight to Korea. This is the story of refugee on YouTube's Diary in a 'War-like Age'. So begins the Peace Weekly Column of the Catholic Peace Weekly.

The number of North Korean defectors on YouTube is increasing. As of the end of June, there are more than 11 channels with over 100,000 subscribers. This is a significant number compared to the 33,000 North Korean defectors. The contents range from entertainment, a new generation of women content, to current affairs of the middle-aged. It's not just about hostility to North Korea. You have both the conservative and progressive, those opposed to the sending of leaflets to the North. Their stories concern their defection from the North.

"It's easy to leave North Korea all you have to do is risk your life." Even if you risk your life and cross the border, you will not receive refugee status in China. If discovered, it is forced repatriation. In particular, there are dangers everywhere for women. Human trafficking is common as is forced abduction through fraud and intimidation. A 2019 report said about 60% of the 45 North Korean woman defectors interviewed were trafficked, 30% of whom were forced to marry.

A woman tells her story of being sold to a remote village and gave birth to a Chinese child but this did not guarantee her identity. She was arrested and went through many ordeals:  apprehended by the North Korean security forces, she was taken to a concentration camp and forced to take educational programs to correct her thinking, suffering terrible violence. She came close to death many times. "As long as people live, they have to live and have no choice but to live."

There are also criticisms of North Korean refugee YouTubers. Inflated reports or talking about things of the past as if they were the present North Korean reality. The internet, of course, is filled with fake news and requires that each YouTuber's experience and beliefs be examined. But it is necessary to listen to the middle-class cry for human rights and freedom coming from these refugees from the North.

Freedom and human rights are like the air we breathe so it's hard to feel its preciousness when living and enjoying them daily. Listening to the vivid experiences of North Korean refugees makes one think. Anger is aggravated by the bondage and restraint, the human rights situation that is trampled upon miserably, and compassion for the people of North Korea arises. Furthermore, we look back at the human rights issues of our society and look at how we are treating the North Korean refugees here in the South.

It is argued that raising human rights issues against North Korea is effective. A North Korean refugee, an economic expert, who is now a reporter Kang Mi-jin (Teresa) is quoted as saying: "When I went to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2017, I heard firsthand that North Korean representatives announced that they had solved the 'flower swallow problem' (homeless children) under pressure from the international community. North Korea also wants to be recognized as a normal country."

North Korea is a partner with which we need to be unified someday. Efforts to share the same values must take precedence along the path to peaceful unity. Freedom and human rights are absolute values ​​that cannot be yielded. North Korean refugee on Youtube reminds us of the values ​​of freedom and human rights. Are not these to be the values of both the North and South?

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