|2017 Talk Talk Concert|
On 28 November 2017, NKHR co-hosted its ‘Talk Talk Concert’ with Kwangwoon University. This year’s concert, which was held in Donghae Arts Center, gathered around 100 Kwangwoon college students. The primary purpose of the Concert is for students to have the opportunity to hear and understand the realities of North Koreans from defectors who have now settled in South Korea. Through this program, students are able to hear various stories of everyday life in North Korea, the dangerous and treacherous process of defecting and the difficulties defectors face in adapting to South Korean life. Currently, there are approximately 30,000 North Korean defectors who have settled in South Korea. This year’s ‘Talk Talk Concert’ featured the lives and experiences of two North Korean defectors namely; author of ’11-year Will’, Eun-Joo Kim and South Korea’s only sohaegeum musician, Seong-Jin Park.
During the Concert, both Eun-Joo Kim and Seong-Jin Park shared their experiences from their unique perspectives as they answered questions and discussed the different aspects of life in North and South Korea. Eun-Joo Kim recounts of how she felt, stating “in North Korea, there are two countries. Pyeongyang, where Kim Il-Sung was born and Aoji, where I was born”, noting the stark differences between the capital and her home-town. Escaping starvation from the North Hamgyong Province in North Korea, Kim held her mother’s hand as an 11 year old and crossed the Tumen River into China, an incredibly dangerous journey where death was a high possibility. Seong-Jin Park, on the other hand, grew up in Pyeongyang, attending Pyeongyang University of Arts as a sohaegeum player and enjoyed a relatively prosperous life. However, following an incident at a wedding ceremony in the 1990s wherein Park sang a South Korean song, he was expelled from the university and the area. After that incident, Park began listening to South Korean broadcasting and ultimately succeeded in defecting to South Korea ten years later.
They both spoke about the topic of love and marriage in North Korea. Seong-Jin Park noted that one time, women working in the textile factory were married hastily to discharged soldiers under the North Korean government planning. As he said this, the audience could not hide their surprised and shocked faces. Eun-Joo Kim also noted that, in the past, dating was highly criticized in daily life but now the dating culture is spreading because the North Korean leader Jong-un Kim often accompanies his wife to public events, and from South Korean dramas which become popular in the North. She stated that, “in the past, I would call my boyfriend ‘comrade’ or ‘companion’, but these days ‘oppa’ or ‘honey’ is more fitting”.
Seong-Jin Park also received loud applause from the audience for his performance of ‘Holo Arirang’. He stated that he wants to go back to North Korea and play South Korean music when the two are unified. The audience also actively participated in the concert as students asked questions and took part in a quiz to win prizes. Min-Jung Song, a 22-year old college student said that she initially did not know much about North Korea but now that she does, it has been very beneficial. Sung-Hoon Park, a 22 year old college student, also happily stated that ‘it was very touching listening to the sohaegeum performance’ by Seong-Jin Park. The concert was successful in raising awareness and proved to be eye-opening to many who were unaware of the dangerous and difficult lives led by North Koreans. Eun-Joo Kim and Seong-Jin Park’s unique perspectives were an asset to this concert and enabled the wider audience to relate to and understand their experiences.
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