My grandfather was born in North Korea but escaped to the south during the Korean War. He eventually made his way to the USA, then Canada where he spent his life working as a doctor in Newfoundland. He currently resides outside Halifax, Nova Scotia. Ask him anything!

A picture of him in Newfoundland with his new VW in the 60's

EDIT: I've left my grandparents house and gone home for the night. I'm sorry we didn't get to answer too many questions, this AMA really took off a while after I left. My grandfather enjoyed the questions and said thank you to everyone who took the time to write him. It was very cool to hear from other people who had family that went through very similar experiences. If anyone has any questions, send a PM and I will try my best to get an answer for you. Thank you.

here's the reddit pic

and here's a bonus pic

and another

last one. Goodnight

Comments: 1251 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

MistressHaze1218 karma

Is there anything/anyone you regret leaving behind in North Korea and why?

DocKim2198 karma

I never regretted leaving North Korea but I never saw my parents again. I don't know what happened to them.

beethovenshair640 karma

My grandfather went through almost the same thing as you- he also says that his biggest regret is that his mother and all his brothers died in the war and he couldn't say goodbye. Even then he only heard of their deaths through rumours from other people fleeing south.

DocKim1112 karma

My mother and father were going to meet me in the south but they had some affairs to take care of such as my fathers lumber business. My mother urged me to go with my uncle and they would meet me later. They didn't think things would get so bad, but they never arrived and I lost all contact with them.

Vinkelslip-43 karma

What was so bad you had to leave your family behind when you yourself said that family is the most important thing. Why could they not come with you?

DocKim17 karma

My mother and father were going to meet me in the south but they had some affairs to take care of such as my fathers lumber business. My mother urged me to go with my uncle and they would meet me later. They didn't think things would get so bad, but they never arrived and I lost all contact with them.

jvcinnyc795 karma

In an ideal world what would he like to see happen in his native Homeland? If it happened would he go back there to live?

DocKim1349 karma

Of course I would like to see North Korea liberated and become a peaceful and free nation, although I would not likely return there.

The_PlaceboEffect740 karma

What is the best memory he has from growing up in North Korea? Conversely what is the worst memory he has on growing up in North Korea?

DocKim1555 karma

My favourite memories from growing up are of just hanging out with my friends and talking. My worst memories are from during the Korean War. I was captured by North Korean soldiers when they were invading the south. I was staying with a local teacher when I was captured. He actually knew some of my captors and was able to negotiate my release. I was lucky as I would likely have been executed.

notyouraveragegoat683 karma

what's the greatest piece of wisdom that he has acquired over his years?

DocKim1388 karma

Family is the most important thing in life. I have a wonderful wife and successful children as well as many grand children that are all close to me. I am very fortunate.

karmanaut681 karma

Could you provide a picture of him now answering questions?

DocKim1668 karma

rab2176571 karma

If it's not too personal, how did your grandfather escape?

DocKim1375 karma

My uncle would bring gold from china down to the south and he knew good routes to the border. I left my hometown and we walked, bussed, and took a train until we were close to the border. When we tried to cross over we were stopped by soviet soldiers and my uncle bribed them with a wrist watch. They let us go.

ChopsNZ872 karma

Apparently Russian soliders used to go nuts for watches during WW2 so they would have absolutely loved that.

DocKim2420 karma

Yes many of the soldiers had no education and we're very impressed by watches. I saw one soldier that had broken watches all up his arm.

BennyXavier449 karma

Is it true that people who leave North Korea still believe that Kim Il-Sung is a great person who did good for the world? Was it true for you?

jamesdakrn549 karma

There are millions of Koreans that left the North during the war, thinking it would be temporary. In 1950, the level of NK "brainwashing" was not even close to today's, as both the South Korean and the NOrth Korean states were very young, unstable, and frankly no one envisioned that the division would last through today. My guess is that no, they don't think much of Kim Il Sung. In fact, most North Korean Silhyangmin (those who left North Korea before/during the war, literally "those who have lost their homeland" in Korean) are aggressively anti-NK and the Kim regime, since they see that Kim Il Sung took away their homeland and their families.

DocKim715 karma

Thank you, yes, North Korea was very different back then from what he has said. This actually describes my grandfathers situation perfectly, as he left around the time of the war and was never able to return to his home and lost all contact with his family. He does not think highly of the Kim regime. Edit: he also wasn't subject to the type of conditions and brainwashing you see taking place in NK today.

Grce412 karma


DocKim664 karma

My hometown of about 30000 was mostly Christian. There were many missionaries at the time.

lxpatterson364 karma

After he trained as a doctor, why did he choose to live on the rock?

DocKim653 karma

I was recruited by the provincial government because there was no medical school in Newfoundland and as a result, many rural areas had no medical services. There were 13 other doctors recruited as well. The people of Newfoundland were very welcoming to me.

lxpatterson251 karma

Was it difficult to maintain a Korean identity -language, food, customs- during that era (I'm guessing there weren't too many Koreans in Nfld then)?

DocKim528 karma

The people of Newfoundland were very good to me and I still maintained lots about my Korean identity. Eventually I came to live in St Johns and I met many Korean families there and was even the president of the Korean Society for a time. There were many Korean students that would come to the university there as well.

ravyrn352 karma

Since your departure from North Korea, have you been in any contact with old friends and family? Or when you fled, did you have to cut all ties and basically start over your social and family life?

DocKim641 karma

I had two cousins that made it to the south. One of my cousins is still alive and had a successful construction company. My other cousin has passed away and was a professor at a medical school. I never saw or heard from my parents and my other relatives again after I left.

Octose268 karma

If you don't mind me asking, what part of NK were you from? My grandmother also escaped during the war and was from Sinuiju.

DocKim359 karma

Sunchun was the name of my hometown. I think Sinuiju is maybe an hour North from there if I am not mistaken.

batmantoker420233 karma

what did you learn in schools as a child in North Korea? Did they teach standard mathematics and science? Were history classes altered to show the leader as the savior of all?

DocKim520 karma

In school we learned basic arithmetic, writing, and reading. I remember my father had a tray of sand that he would get me to practice my Korean characters on. We didn't have any paper so I would write the characters in the sand then shake the tray to start over again. We studied history in high school, but I can't remember many if the details unfortunately.

JackWilliamDent218 karma

What was his perception of the south before he escaped there and how did the world differ from what he was used to?

DocKim373 karma

I was still very young when Korea was divided. At some point missionaries had come to my home town and eventually about 90 percent of the people there became Christian. The communists did not allow people to practice religion and would eventually come to collect young people for military service. My mother told me I should go south away from communist control.

Xboxben143 karma

Is it true that people are literally starving on the streets ? And is every one deathly afraid if the government ?

DocKim370 karma

That is likely true today, but when I was there it was a much different time. I was born before Korea was even divided.

ChopsNZ120 karma

Does he think that the cult of personality would have become more deeply entrenched over the decades since his escape?

DocKim291 karma

Yes. Many of the questions in this thread are more related to what North Korea is like now. Keep in mind that he was alive before Korea was divided.