Giving hope to the North Korean defectors, National Assemblyman Cho Myung-chul
Cho Myung-chul is the first North Korean defector ever to enter the National Assembly of Korea. Since he defected to the south 19 years ago, he has dedicated a tremendous amount of time and effort to promote human rights of North Koreans and facilitate the settlement of North Korean defectors in the south.
Based on his stellar career background and his current position as a high-ranking government official, people assume that he must’ve had it easy starting a new life in South Korea. However, that was not the case. It pained him to see his fellow defectors struggle to adjust to the life in Korea, especially because he knew what they had to sacrifice in order to arrive in the south. Also, he was criticized by the North Korean authorities for working as a researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, the Director of the International Development and Cooperation Center, and the Director of the Institute for Unification Education.
He was considered an 'elite' in North Korea, having been born into an affluent family. His father served as a representative of the Top People's Committee and the Head of Construction at the Administration Council, while his mother was a university professor and Russian translator. Cho Myung-chul himself studied at the Pyongyang Namsan School, which only the children of high-ranking officers can attend, before obtaining his decree at Kim Il-sung University and teaching there as an economics professor.
In 1993, Cho Myung-chul taught at Nankai University in Tianjin, China as an exchange professor and it was during this time when he finally realized the 'bare truth about North Korea.' Even at a young age, he questioned the government system of North Korea that stripped its people of their freedom, and the shame and anger he felt toward his homeland made him get on an international train to Hong Kong to head over to Korea. He was 35 at the time. For the following 19 years, he never stopped working. With a pen in his hand at all times, he tried to tell the world about what really goes on in Korea. His last wish is the reunification of Korea that would allow him to reunite with his family. But the harsh reality is that many of the people in South Korea could care less about the work that needs to be done for reunification to be possible and some even believe that we are far better off without reunifying with North Korea. So, these days, his main focus is to educate the people and change their perception and attitude toward North Korean and the idea of reunification.
Make sure to tune into The INNERview to learn the story of North Koreans who risked their lives to defect to the south in search of freedom and a better life.