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Why North Koreans leave both Koreas: Int'l film festival opens near inter-Korean border Updated: 2018-09-14 18:01:10 KST

South Korea is the most common destination for most North Korean defectors who escape the hermit kingdom in search of a freer and better life.
But a North Korean woman living in the Netherlands decided to leave the South four years ago, burnt out from the pressure to adjust to the capitalist system.

"I thought South Korea would be our last stop. We couldn’t bear our lives in the North and fled. In the South, we were free. But I realized freedom is not everything."

She's one of the defectors introduced by Seoul-based filmmaker Steve Choi at the DMZ International Documentary FIlm Festival this year.
More than 140 films from 39 countries are being showcased at the 8-day festival, less than an hour away from the border between the two Koreas.

"Amid the ongoing rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula, there's particular interest on films that show the lives of North Koreans."

I came hoping to indirectly experience the reality of North Korea and defectors through film."

Through his 85-min piece, Choi sheds light on why so many defectors decide to leave South Korea, an estimated 2-thousand out of the 30-thousand defectors registered here.
The filmmaker says most fail to adjust to the fast-paced life in the South -- the pressure to get a good education, find a high-paying job, and move up the social ladder.
The so-called glass wall of discrimination and distrust toward defectors hinders them from advancing.

"This one defector kid I filmed was teased for having North Korean parents. Even though she was born here. A lot of South Koreans told me they were not aware of it. They didn't know these problems exist. I guess it was the same for me as well. It's probably just how indifferent we are about them- about their lives."

Choi hopes his film will help change that perception, saying defectors must be seen -- not as helpless victims, law breakers or social misfits -- but as ordinary people trying to find their place in the world, much like the rest of us.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News.
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