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North Koreans cite South Korean talk show as motive for escape

May 19, 2023 - 21:51 By Kim Arin
The flags of South Korea and North Korea (123rf)

A popular South Korean talk show featuring North Korea escapees motivated a group of North Koreans to flee their repressive home country earlier this month, they were quoted as telling Seoul officials in a screening interview.

Nine North Koreans, who are related to each other, were being investigated here after they crossed a sea border west of the peninsula, Seoul officials said Thursday.

Sources with knowledge of the interview told The Korea Herald it was a pair of brothers who took the initiative to get their family members out of North Korea. The younger of the brothers had been the captain of a boat.

The brothers told Seoul officials they “hated” the Kim Jong-un regime, the sources said, and that their deceased father had refused to join the Workers’ Party, the country’s sole political party.

They developed a fascination for South Korean culture from watching TV shows that were put on a surreptitiously obtained USB drive. In particular, they cited broadcaster Channel A’s “Now On My Way to Meet You,” a weekly talk show starring North Korean escapees, as having had a major influence on their decision to escape. The show, in which defectors talk about their hardships and debunk myths about the reclusive regime, gave them hope that North Koreans can have a successful life in South Korea.

One of the brothers has two children, one of whom is about to turn five. Five is the age children enroll in preschools in North Korea, where they are taught to be loyal to the ruling Kim family. They said they wanted to leave before their children are indoctrinated in the North Korean formal education.

They began bribing the coast guard officials from earlier this year, biding their time to escape via the sea route at night.

The National Intelligence Service confirmed that the North Koreans described their motive for escape as an admiration for life in South Korea from watching TV shows. As COVID-19 made it harder for them to make a living, that also hastened their decision to leave.