Young Defectors Take to YouTube

  • By Kim Myong-song

    April 06, 2021 12:21

    Several young North Korean defectors have taken to YouTube to offer a peek into their lives under the repressive regime and adjusting to the free world.

    One young activist in the U.S., Park Yeon-mi, opened a YouTube channel called "Voice of North Korea" last August. She compares the U.S. and North Korea by talking about light topics such as music, foods and culture, as well as the North Korean human rights situation and defectors.

    Born in Hyesan in Ryanggang Province, Park fled the North in 2007 when she was 13. She lived first in South Korea and has been studying at Columbia University in New York since 2015.

    The channel has about 500,000 subscribers just eight months after opening.

    English programs by North Korea-born YouTubers like Park could have a significant influence in raising awareness of the issues surrounding North Korea.

    Park Yeon-mi (top) and Lee Seo-hyun

    "Pyonghattan" is the YouTube channel of Lee Hyun-seung and his sister Seo-hyun, who opened it in Washington late last year. They had escaped from the North and settled in the U.S. with their mother and father, who used to be a senior official in the Workers Party's notorious Room 39, which manages the coffers of leader Kim Jong-un.

    They talk about their experience in Pyongyang's elite schools like Kumsong Academy, Pyongyang Foreign Languages School and Kim Il-sung University and studying in China. They also draw attention to the repressive nature of the regime and its human rights abuses.

    In South Korea too, more and more young defectors who have learnt English with the help of charity Freedom Speakers International have opened YouTube channels. They include "Yuna from DPRK," by Jung Yu-na and "Eunhee from North Korea" by Park Eun-hee.

    Jung became well-known for her appearance on a popular TV talk show for defectors.

    "Humans of North Korea" has also attracted attention. Its programs with Korean and English subtitles are made by Heo Jun, who had fled the North in his late teens and later graduated from Seoul National University.

    A video from May 2017 showing how South Koreans respond to North Koreans reached more than 10 million views, and subscribers number 240,000.

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