Friends and family asked me to pick my favorite educational aspect of visiting South Korea, and I must say without hesitation that it is the opportunity to have personally met North Korean refugees.
I have done my share of reading many devastating news about people being oppressed and having no personal freedom to live. During my early childhood in Nepal, I heard about traumatizing violence due to the political chaos caused by the death of the royal family. Given I lived in Nepal while it occurred, I had never met someone directly effected by the atrocious government. So being able to hear the stories of the North Korean refugees first hand was a surreal experience. It is amazing that they have such incredible courage to be able to successfully escape from a place like North Korea. One of the refugees, she was only successful in escaping her second attempt because she got caught in China her first time. North Koreans who escape and get captured receive a harsher punishment; so her will to escape and to live a better life is powerfully encouraging. She is currently living her dream as a working citizen of the United States. The refugees also explained how Kim Jung-Un portrays the outside world; since birth, North Koreans are taught that the United States is their enemy and they are against reunification of Korea. This experience is the highlight of my entire week in Seoul because their stories seem like something you read or hear about in the news; but to them, their story is their life. Two of the refugees could not take a picture with us because the North Korean government may still be looking for them, so it can be dangerous to their life. I am truly so grateful they were willing to share their stories while practicing their English.
This event was another wake-up call to make me realize that the world is bigger than my daily life problems. Some people know about what is happening in other parts of the world, but it does not seem real because they don’t understand the effects of it.