Most of what the world knows about North Korea comes from the impersonal reporting of daily journals and the nightly news. These illuminating conversations titled What North Korean Defectors Think offer a much more relatable and human perspective on what it's like to exist under the weight of an oppressive dictatorship.
The film features interviews with an appealing young man and woman who share no relation outside of their strikingly similar life journeys. These former North Korean citizens faced great danger when they both attempted to defect. Luckily, they proved successful in their efforts, but they were well aware of the consequences they would have faced if they were caught in the act.
The first segment of the film addresses these dangers and the other harsh realities North Koreans must confront in their day-to-day existence. Like most of the country's embattled inhabitants, both interview subjects underwent extreme scarcities of food and electricity, and witnessed immense hardship and death from an early age.
Through their haunting testimonies, we learn of the great famine that gripped the country in the 1990s when over 3 million North Koreans perished from starvation under the rule of Kim Jung Il. They share their memories of escaping their home country, and their accounts are fraught with an edge-of-your-seat tension. After all, they both would have suffered execution on a massive public stage if they had been captured.
In the second segment of the film, the subjects discuss their attempts to build a better life for themselves in South Korea. Their new home offered a thriving cultural landscape and greater freedoms than they had ever experienced before. This transition presented them both with a tremendously challenging, eye-opening and rewarding learning experience.
Finally, they share the hopes and fears they still harbor for their homeland. In most respects, conditions in North Korea have only worsened with the rise of Kim Jung Un, and they worry for the safety of those family members they left behind.
With probing insight and great sensitivity, What North Korean Defectors Think puts a human face on one of the most controversial regions of the world.