I was born in Pyongyang, North Korea. My father was a party official and our family was orginally well-off in North Korea. At about the age of 17 (in the year 2006) my father was in trouble and being sent to labour camp. I and mother and my younger sister flee to China by passing the North Korea-China border. We were then "bought" by 3 Chinese men and became their wives. I married to a Chinese man in the rural area of Shandong. He was 20 years older than me. I got a temporary right of residence after about a year.

I give birth to a son in the second year of marriage. My husband died last year. I then left our son to his family and went to the city nearby. Shortly after I leaved China to Macau and now working in a night club in Macau.

A month ago I have sumbit an AMA here and I still receiving various question. It seen that many people are interested in North Korea and may be also China. So here is the AMA again.

Here is the previous post : http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/1eygeh/iama_woman_born_in_north_korea_and_flee_to_china/

Comments: 3485 • Responses: 68  • Date: 


What was something about life outside of N.Korea that surprised you the most/seemed strange to you after leaving? (This can be something that might not seem significant to everyone else. Just something that really shocked you.)

njskorea2216 karma

The wasting of food.

doxob737 karma

Well said.

njskorea1309 karma

Why do the Chinese always orders more than what they are able to eat and why do the American and the Europeans destroys the corn or wheat or milk just to put up the price in the market?

Joltie774 karma

Completely unrelated question: How has a North Korean girl turned refugee and wife in China learned how to type English so well? North Korean education?

njskorea1180 karma

Yes, North Korean education. North Korea had boys and girls proficient in different language, English, Chinese, French, Russian, German, Japanese, etc. Have you think about where are the interpretors and translators of North Korean come from?

Dale92516 karma

Follow-up, how is the education in North Korea? Were you only able to learn a second language because of your father's position? Or is every student well-educated?

njskorea896 karma

I agree that it may be because of my father's position that I was able to receive a better education. I would say not every students in North Korea were well-educated, but at least every students in the family of party official or army received good education, no matter how lower was the rank.


I've always wondered about children of high ranking North Korean party officials that study abroad in Western countries. If they are allowed to live abroad and witness how life is outside of North Korea, how do they return to North Korea and still believe what is told to them by the North Korean government? How many of these children are "converted" to more Western norms yet hide that in order to get by in North Korea?

njskorea2174 karma

I don't think those in the highest ranks do really believe the doctrine, even for those who never study aboard. They only believe in power and authority. Those children are not returning to take up the belief and party line, but returning to take up the power and authority. I do think many do "converted" to more Western norms but power and authority are much more attractive. You do not need to really believe in a doctrine in order to practise the doctrine.

thehumanparagraph537 karma

what are north koreans taught about other countries? What about western nations such as the US and the UK?

njskorea1028 karma

We were taught from the very young that other countries were full of bad things such as oppression, crimes, pollution, low moral standard, etc. We were taught to prepare all the times for the agressive attack of the imperialist United States and South Korea as they were taking every opportunities wishing to attack and take North Korea.

Gacolucci418 karma

I'll put this question as simply as possible: Do you think this the Kim Jongs will ever been taken out? Is there a possibility of North Korea becoming what most of us would consider a "normal" country?

njskorea830 karma

I would have a hope on that. You can never know what would happen tomorrow and there is never anything impossible. To be honest, I don't think the present Kim's dynasty can survive for hundreds of years and change is only a matter of time.

jonbowen401 karma

I watched that interview on 60 Minutes about the guy who was born in a camp and knew nothing else. How awful! Do you have contact with your child?

njskorea679 karma

Yes, I have constant contacted with him in phone.

M3g4d37h224 karma

Do you send money home for him?

njskorea578 karma


presidentpoteet384 karma

What do you think of Dennis Rodman meeting with Kim Jong recently?

njskorea942 karma

A show for the benefit of both.

Fleshbar330 karma

how did this benefit rodman?

njskorea2428 karma

I have never heard Rodman before that. Now I know him.

AngryRanga362 karma

Would you ever choose to return to North Korea? That is, if the current regime were to fall.

njskorea1946 karma

Not if the current regime were to fall, but when there is an hopeful new and good regime. The falling of the current one does not automatically mean the next one will be good.

kaax353 karma

In a VICE documentary I saw that a lot of Pyongyang restaurants are always completely empty but the staff tried to make it look like they're expecting a lot of visitors while putting old breadsticks on the table and rushing around with a stressful look on their face like hundreds of visitors will be coming in soon. Apparently there is a lot of (bad) acting in front of tourists to make North Korea look worldly and cultivated.

Can you confirm this type of behavior?

njskorea1140 karma

I would say they were not doing that look like they were expecting a lot of visitors, but doing that to prove they had somethings to do and value of being employed. Even outside North Korea, I can see many people doing some meaningless work pretending they were busy to cheat their employer.

iamsuchabummer350 karma


njskorea1052 karma

  1. Canada is fine, United States is rich and strong but Mexico is not very good.

  2. Australia or New Zealand. I think they have a more fair and free society and little discrimination agaisnt Asians.

FranticDisembowel333 karma

What is one custom from North Korea that you feel other countries should follow?

njskorea877 karma

After thinking, I really can't name anyone, sorry.

bobby_pendragon324 karma

First off I think it's amazing that you escaped from there. I grew up basically thinking nobody could get in or out…

My question is,

What is an average day like for a family in North Korea?

And follow up: What is a special day like?

Thanks for the AMA !

njskorea639 karma

There were thousands of people that were able to cross the North Korean-China border, that was not difficult as North Korean border patrols were always subject to bribes and there was simply no patrol on the China side at the border.

An average day was very simple. Mother would prepare breakfast in the morning for the whole family. Father went to work and children went to school after breakfast. Mother usually remained in home for housework. Children usually had lunch at school. After school we did homework or other reading and playing to wait for father. Then the whole family had dinner and after dinner there was not much entertainment and we usually went to bed early.

In some special days such as the nationsal day and the bithday of Kim Il-sung, the school would usually arrange the students to join and participate some large scale rally or show to "celebrate" the special days. At the spring festivals, we would decorate the home and made some special food.

I understand the life in the countryside was much different and much harder.

drivebybronco292 karma

did you ever see your father again?

njskorea600 karma

No, and I understand neither my grandmother and uncle who was still in North Korea had seen him again. They just have rumor saying that he is still alive in the labour camp.

malcontented282 karma

Are people in N. Korea really as brainwashed as they seem or do they just act like that to avoid problems?

njskorea720 karma

We are taught to follow and not to question the official doctrines since kindergarten. I would say brainwashed may be not the most appropriate adjective and there was nothing to wash in the very beginning when we were growing up. However, I think just like in all other societies, there were someone who have rebellious mentallity whilst there were also a lot just follow the social norm. The only difference may be that for those who have rebellious mentallity, they might be forced to act in accordance with social norms just like that to avoid problems and for the majority others we were indoctrinated to act as the others.


Have you ever thought about writing a book/autobiography about your life? Even if it's something you don't really want to do, it would be a sure way to make money for you to put towards traveling and seeing the world.

edit: Just wanted to add that I said that she could put the money towards traveling because in her last AMA she said she wished to travel.

njskorea318 karma

May be, don't know, haha

Wolf-O-Donnell215 karma

While there is much discussion about the politics and whatnot, I'm also interested in the culture of North Korea. How do marriages work? Is it usually arranged by the families to maintain social class or are people pretty much free to date/marry who they want without much outside pressure? Also, does the government have any role in this?

Thank you very much for doing this. It's so enlightening to hear about NK from people who've actually lives there instead of the news media.

njskorea423 karma

Amongst the young generation arranged marriages by the families were not common. The young generation were rather free to date and marry, but of course the parents' opinion sometimes still played a part in the marry and the parent's "objection" is usually "respected". Just as in other society, the socal class was maintained not through arranged marriage but through the reality that most people could only have contacted and a chance to meet and date others in similar social class.

I did not hear that the government have any role in that.

Wolf-O-Donnell104 karma

Thanks for answering! I simply had no idea. Also, what do you hope for your life to be like 5 or even 10 years from now?

njskorea214 karma

Really I never think about that.

reallylengthyname208 karma


njskorea377 karma

When Kim Il-sung died (I was still very young at that time), I could feel many, including my grands and my parents, were really sad. For Kim Jong Il, I do not know. However, I would say most of the mourning was nurtured, though a few may be genuine.

anna2096199 karma

Did you have a hobby growing up (i.e. music, art, athletics), and what were the common pass times of children in N Korea? Also, what were you NOT allowed to do as a pass time?

njskorea342 karma

I liked drawing and painting and was able to paint some good picture. I did spend a lot of time in drawing and painting in my leisure.

We went to park or skiing during school holidays.

Noone had told me what was not allowed to do to pass time.

anna2096116 karma

Thanks for answering! Do you still draw and paint? (I do that as well)

njskorea269 karma

Yes, I still do that in my leisure time. I like water color and Chinese-style painting.

scribbles23193 karma

Are there things about the United States/China/South Korea that you were told in North Korea while growing up that you found to be true?

njskorea895 karma

Yes, they are :-

  1. United States is always agreesive and like to attack other countries;
  2. South Korean are arrogant, especially to North Korean;
  3. Pollution is wide-spread in China and all the Chinese already lost their revolution spirit and all are of very low moral standard.

RaphaeI836 karma

Well, none of these teachings is wrong.

njskorea480 karma

I expect more upvote to this comment, especially from Americans and Chinese.

Knuckle14107 karma

Not entirely wrong, not entirely right. It's misleading, in all honesty.

njskorea115 karma

You are talking about 1, 2 or 3. For 2 it may be only a subjective feeling. And for 1 and 3 I don't think they are misleading.

stonedzombie420191 karma

Why did you leave your son behind? Do you plan on reuniting with him?

njskorea439 karma

I wish to take him with me but his grands and uncle do not allow me to do so.

paunstefan188 karma

Do you think that communism or North Korean regime has any advantages ? I'm from Romania and we were a communist country until 1989 and some people (especially old people) keep saying that some things were better.

njskorea300 karma

I don't know. May be I would say the percentage of privileged class in communist country (the party members and military) is higher than the percentage of privileged class in the capitalist country (the millionaries and upper class) and that may be an advantage. Of course there are a lot of disadvantages in communist country.


What do N.Koreans think of gay people? Are there any gay people that come out in N.Korea? Or does the country claim that no one in N.Korea is gay?

njskorea408 karma

Never heard about any gay people come out in North Korea and personally I did not know any of the gay people in North Korea. This even not a topic in North Korea and so the country had never said anything on that.

theschillingmaster180 karma

If the regime changed, do you think North Korea could become a good tourist destination? What are some places that would be considered "Tourist spots" in North Korea?

njskorea358 karma

I think North Korea is now a good tourist destination for many people in the World. Many people just want to see how different the country is in comparing to the rest of the world. That is a selling point and everywhere in North Korea are "tourist spots" in such circumstances.


전에 쓰신 AMA를 읽었는데 당신은 아주 강하고 멋진분이신것 같네요. 힘든일을 극복하고도 또다시 남들의 인생에 비해 힘든삶을 살고 있어도 이제는 자신의 꿈을 이루기 위해 산다는것이 아주 감동적이에요. 복많이받고 행복하시길 바래요...

njskorea337 karma

Thank you for your encouragement

Microtron150 karma

So its true then....when some one defects their whole family get sent to a labour camp?

njskorea285 karma

I can only say usually when someone defects his/her whole immediately family would have a high risks to be sent to labour camp. It also depends on how serious the allegations were.

Microtron171 karma

Is there such a there such a thing as speaking ill of Kim jong?

Edit : not kong

njskorea360 karma

Noone would speaking ill on the the leaders, no matter openly or privately.

Chucknorris42144 karma

Who do you think is really pulling the strings in North Korea? How much power does the military have?

njskorea262 karma

I think it was the few military and party heads, collectively, not Kim Jong Un, who were actually in charge of the country. It is difficult to say how much power does the military have because most of the party highest ranks come from the military and the two ranks were widely overlapped.

The_Neon_Knight133 karma

Have you seen this video?

Are things really that bad or is it "imperialist propaganda"?

How many North Koreans live in these conditions?

Do the people of Pyongyang know about this?

njskorea240 karma

I did know there was famine and starving in the countryside though the media never told. We did see that when we have chance to go to the countryside. I wouild say there was about half of the population in North Korea living in the countryside and they were suffering from certain degree of famine and starving.


Are there charities in North Korea where more well off North Korean citizens can help the very poor citizens of North Korea? Are there charities of any kind or is that unheard of? (sorry for asking so many questions. The opportunity to speak to someone who has lived in North Korea does not come everyday and I thank you so much for doing this AMA!)

njskorea218 karma

I had not heard about there was any charities in North Korea. Everythings and every areas of life were controlled by the party and I do not think they would allow any charities operating in North Korea.


What is an item that you have used after leaving N.Korea that has simplified/made doing something much easier than the how it is done in N.Korea?

njskorea273 karma

Mobile phone. Mobile phone is not availale to common people in North Korea.

janhen10105 karma

How was life growing up there? How strong of an influence did Kim Jong Il's have on the nation?

njskorea324 karma

Actually I did not feel very bad with my life growing up in North Korea. I had a happy childhood and youth years, as my family was not amongst the lower class and we are not living in straving. My childhood and youth years were simple but happy. Contrary to what you may think about, I never think about we were living in no freedom and under many restrictions. As life was like that since I was born, there was no comparison.

I would say that the influence of Kim Il-sung was very strong in the North Korea, even after his death and in the Kim Jong Il's era. You saw the protriats of Kim Il-sung everywhere and everythings were following the teaching and doctrines of Kim Il-sung. Kim Jong Il took his authority as the successor of the Kim Il-sung and his line, not as a leader on his own. North Korea is indeed ruling by a person who dead for years.

CanadianVelociraptor89 karma

What is your opinion on the internet censorship in North Korea? What is the general public's attitude toward such practices? (Do people try to circumvent it, or just live with it?)

njskorea202 karma

Not many people had access to internet in North Korea. The usage of the internet were mainly for education and research and official purpose and was under a highly control environment. The general public even didn't have the connection to access to internet, not to say any chance to try to circumvent the censorship.

fritobugger82 karma

Couldn't you go to the South Korean Consulate in Macau and seek asylum and repatriation to South Korea?

njskorea198 karma

Why should I do that? Actually I don't think South Korea is much better than China or Macau.

TheMajesticBoner82 karma

How/when did you get out? What does the population get taught about the outside world growing up?

Appreciate the AMA, Definitely difficult as a US born to understand NK

njskorea145 karma

I fleed from North Korea when I was 17, in 2006, by crossing the North Korean-China border with my mom and younger sister, with the help and under the arrangement of middlemen.

We had little contact with the outside world in North Korea. We were taught that other countries are full of bad things such as oppression and crimes and pollution. We were taught that the imperialist United States and the South Korea were seeking all the chance to attack and occupy North Korea.

MindMyself78 karma

What went though your mind when Kim Jong Il died?

njskorea258 karma

No feeling, really.

hoydor77 karma

Are North Korean people properly nourished? How is the amount and variety of food?

njskorea152 karma

For those in Pyongyang I would say no to your question. The variety were not much and most food was only vegetarian but the food was just sufficient. However, for the countryside the situation is much different. I would say most of the resources and food went to Pyongyang and there was not much left in other part of the country.

Jo_Cu76 karma

How easy was it to travel from Pyongyang to the border of China? Is it difficult? It seems like a fair amount of distance to travel when you are not in favor of the regime.

njskorea133 karma

Not very difficult. No road block and no tracing, simply not exciting as you might think so. The distance is not very fair away and the travel only take 2 days.


I heard that Choco Pies are used as currency in North Korea and nowadays North Koreans watch smuggled DVDs of South Korean TV Shows. Was this common when you were living in N.Korea or is this a more recent thing?

njskorea164 karma

Choco pies are not used as currency, but commodities exchange were still practised in North Korea.

When I was still living in North Korea, the trend of watching smuggled DVDs of South Korean TV shows was just beginning and the party were trying its best to suppress that.

Magllen_O64 karma

Sorry to ask another question but what are your thoughts on an unified Korea? Also what do you think about the rehabilition programs in S Korea which help N Korean children and adults into adapting S Korean lifestyle? Thank you again!

njskorea141 karma

Just as an usual Korean, I hope for a peaceful, democratic and strong unified Korea. But I don't think when will the hope be truth. And do you know that in the 2,000 years' history of Korea, there was only an unified Korea in about 1/3 of the time.

I don't know much about the rehabilitation programs. Wish those are not another type of indoctrination.

Archfiend3258 karma

Do you hold the belief that as a sentient being you are entitled to certain inalienable rights, such as: freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly? I would assume most of those would threaten the North Korean regime and would not be allowed. Also, do you believe that the North Korean people are being oppressed and mislead by their government?

njskorea360 karma

I believe a person should have absolute freedom and no restrictions should be imposed unless he or she is doing harm to other person. I don't believe in those doctrine that you have to give up a part of the freedom for the good of the country or the society.

To be fair, every governments are misleading and oppressing its people, just North Korea is far more serious in doing that. I believe that all governments are bad.

climbupwards58 karma

Thanks for the AMA, North Korea seems fascinating, despite its troubles.

Do you feel that most of the North Korean population, if they had the opportunity, would want unrestricted access to the internet? Would they challenge or defend their indoctrination (as you put it) as they learned more about the rest of the world?

njskorea150 karma

I think sure. If you ask someone whether you wish unrestricted freedom to anything, I think nearly all will give you a positive answer.

Indoctrination will surely collapse with free access to information, just like the case of China.

AceQilin49 karma

Since you've been living in Macau and China for some time, can you understand or speak Chinese? If you can, which dialect?

njskorea112 karma

I learnt Chinese in North Korea and is able to speak Puntonghua. After living in Macau for sometimes I am learning to speak Cantonese.

amiinal45 karma

Is there a high percentage of recreational drug usage?
If so what kind of drugs are often used and how would they be obtained? -Thank You

njskorea89 karma

Personally I had never seen or heard about drug. I think it may be difficult to traffick drugs into North Korean and they were also too expensive and not affordable to North Korean.

Magllen_O36 karma

Wow you have been through a lot. What is the military actually like in North Korea? How arrogant are the SouthKoreans? Have you ever met a S Korean and how was it? Sorry just curious because I know a friend who helps out N Korean refugees through church in S Korea. Thank You for doing this Iama!

njskorea95 karma

You can only hear somethings positive about the military in North Korea and so I cannot really know what is the military actually like.

I have met a few South Koreans. In my experience, most South Koreans see North Korean as third class Koreans and mere refugees (the first class is South Koreans and the second class is the Koreans in China).

kingcreon36 karma

I am very interested in North Korea. I have three questions.

  1. Have you met American defector James Dresnok? He lives in Pyongyang, I believe. What do North Koreans think of the American defectors?
  2. Did you ever see the Great Leader (Kim il sung or Kim Jong il) in person? What was it like?
  3. Do you have any stories at all of anyone openly defying the party, the Kims, or the regime and the repercussions?

njskorea100 karma

  1. Never met "the American hero". I was just a common people living in Pyongyang.

  2. Yes, had seen Kim Il sung in the crystal coffin and Kim Jong Il personally (of course far away) in one or two rally and show. For me I had no special feelings. They were just there. I understand some of my classmates regarded them as heros or idols.

  3. In North Korea you could never know anyone openly defying the party, the Kims, or the regime and the repercussions. You have no chance to know that even it there were indeed a few of them. Though there were sometimes rumor about the power struggle at the hightest level, you never know the whole story.

tikitiger33 karma

Would you say most people in North Korea have an idea of what life outside of the country is? Were you able to pick up South Korean radio signals or use uncensored internet? Also, have you heard of Camp 22 or Camp 14?

njskorea64 karma

No, I never able to pick up South Korean radio signals or use uncensored internet. For common North Korean we nearly had no access to the information of what life outside of the country is life, save as those taught in school and in the media controlled by the party. I had heard about labour camp but did not knew much of the details, save as only the state enemy and bad people would be sent into there.

Fraukow29 karma

Thanks so much for doing this AMA! I always read about South Korean political groups trying to airdrop Western propaganda into North Korean borders via balloons, parachuting, etc. Have you ever heard of anyone obtaining these materials successfully? Did you even see these matierals yourself?

Going back on your foreign language education, my father told me that North Koreans actually kidnap native speakers and utilize them as foreign language teachers. Can you confirm this? Did you have native speakers in school? Thanks! Edit: grammar

njskorea36 karma

I had heard about that happened at the North-South border but had never seen any such propaganda materials.

I can only say the foreign language teachers in my the primary and secondary schools I was studying were not native speakers and I never heard about there was any native speakers, other than Chinese, teaching language in North Korea.

mooomba25 karma

I've heard Marijuana grows freely in North Korea and smoking it is common. Is this true?

njskorea136 karma

I can only said that I had never heard or seen any of that. If there is sufficient water and soil and fertilizer, why not rice but Marijuana?

OmarTheTerror9 karma

Thanks for doing this, I just recently watched a few of the documentaries that Vice did on DPRK, and I was wondering if you had seen them. Also, if you have, what were your thoughts? I couldn't tell if it was representative of the country as a whole, or just a small cross section.

njskorea19 karma

Not yet have chance to see the documentaries. And I think most of what they saw were the good of North Korea as they were in Pyongyang, right?

daniellekay2 karma

I understand that South Korea has a system to help out North Koreans who escaped. Do you know if that system is as "good" for North Koreans as they say it is, and will you ever leave China to go to South Korea?

Also, I watched a documentary about North Korean women in China who get sold as sex workers. I'm so glad that this didn't happen to you although what you went through is hardly desirable.. Do you have plans to join a group that helps other North Koreans in China?

njskorea3 karma

I have not heard much about the South Korean programs to help out North Koreans who escaped and hence cannot comment that. Personally I have no desire to go to South Korea. I neither have any plan to join a group that helps other North Koreans in China. I have not heard about any of such group and even if there are the work would be difficult.

JustSomeStrangeGuy1 karma

Are there any illegal drugs, commonly consumed in North Korea? I read some articles about the country, trying to handle a crystal meth epedemic. It is hard to believe that this can happen in a place as restricted as North Kora.

njskorea4 karma

I had never seen or heard about that. I would say if there was enough water and social and fertilizer why not rice and wheat but drug?

toolong46-1 karma

Coming from someone who loves making love to Asian women I had to ask - how are females sex life in North Korea? Is it frowned upon to have sex before marriage?

njskorea2 karma

The younger generations are more open than the older generations and pre-martial sex was becoming more common, though not wide-spread. However, contraception is not widely available to the youth.

heyfella-4 karma

What is the NK pubic hair situation like for women? Is it just an unkempt mess universally or has shaving and waxing made it there?

njskorea7 karma

I never saw or heard about any girls or woman in North Korea had shaving and waxing made it there and I personally had never do that.