The 10 Most Dramatic Stories Of People Who Escaped North Korea

These North Koreans took drastic measures to defect to South Korea.

1. The defect of 13 North Korean restaurant workers

13 workers of a North Korean restaurant in an unspecified area succeeded in defecting to South Korea. The group claimed to have fleed after being under too much pressure by the North Korean government to send foreign currency back to their home country. It was not revealed how they escaped and from which country they escaped from, but they apparently had access to South Korean TV, dramas, movies and the Internet. North Korea has accused South Korea of kidnapping the employees and demanded their return, but South Korea denied the accusations.


2. The soldier who murdered his fellow North Korean soldiers

A North Korean soldier who was guarding post at the DMZ killed 2 senior officers and succeeded in crossing the border. South Korean soldiers spotted a man running through the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) after hearing 6 gunshots. One soldier described the North Korean defector to be about the age of a high school student who ran towards the South Korean guard post unarmed. He was the 5th person to cross the border but the first to murder his fellow soldiers in order to do so.


3. The man who swam to his freedom

Source: Apasciuto / Flickr

One North Korean jumped into the ocean alone with an old tire and swam for 6 hours to cross over to South Korea.


4. The escape through an underground tunnel

Another North Korean crossed the border by using an underground tunnel made by North Korea to invade the South.


5. The North Korean spy

Won Jeong Hwa was a North Korean spy who had allegedly taken part in the kidnapping of numerous South Koreans as well as seducing South Korean military officers for classified information. She revealed that she was trained in North Korea to become a spy since she was young. She was sentenced and served in prison for 5 years in 2008 and has since been living in South Korea.


6. The man who failed twice before safely crossing over to South Korea

Kim Pil Ju lived in North Korea during the North Korean famine and was forced to watch one of his friends die when he was only 12 years old. After being beaten by his stepfather, he and his mother escaped to China only to be discovered and sent back. Then, he tried to escape to China again and got caught again. This time, however, he found a place to hide during his return to North Korea and finally succeeded in escaping.


7. The Sohn sisters

The Sohn sisters attempted at escaping North Korea but were caught and sent to the prison camps where people usually ended up dying. Despite the risk of getting caught again and being punished more severely, the sisters attempted to cross over again and finally succeeded.


8. The man who fleed to the US

Charles Ryu is a North Korean defector who currently resides in the United States. The first time he tried to escape to China, he succeeded and was able to spend some time there eating enough food and even watching foreign media. However, he later got caught and was eventually sent to a labor camp where he received 150 kernels of rice and was forced to work 12 hours a day. After nine months of this torture, they let him go and he began working at a coal mine. However, thinking of the drastically different life he experienced in China, he decided to escape again. Almost being caught again, he finally made it out of North Korea and onto American land where he is now an intern for a nonprofit advocacy group.


9. The man who escaped on crutches

Ji Seong Ho had his left leg and arm cut off while trying to steal some coal to feed his family. He endured two operations both without any anesthesia or blood transfusion. After being mocked by North Korean authorities, he decided to flee to South Korea where he heard they didn’t beat the handicapped. After almost drowning, he succeeded in escaping the North with his brother. He mentioned that he had never seen a person with Down syndrome before arriving in South Korea since the North keeps such people away from the public and that he didn’t know there were societies that protected the disabled.


10. The North Korean soldier who was shot multiple times

A 24-year-old North Korean soldier was shot multiple times by his comrades when he was dashing across the demilitarized zone (DMZ) to South Korea. The defector had severe gun wounds as well as large parasites in his intestines but survived. He can now freely watch movies and listen to K-Pop music that he loves.

Source: IDS News, NY Times and Dispatch