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Sungju Lee, a North Korean survivor, shares a story at a NKHR Rescue Fund event
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2015-04-08 21:01:00
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Sungju Lee, a North Korean survivor, shares a story at

a NKHR Rescue Fund event

By Jessica Cath
Rescue Fund volunteer

On Saturday, April 12th, the NKHR Rescue Fund held its most recent event. The team partnered with the Hallyuwood Film Club to screen the documentary ‘Camp 14: Total Control Zone’ and host a Q&A with a survivor of the North Korean regime, Sungju Lee. The event was attended by an overwhelming number of people from many different countries and all walks of life. People from South Korea, the United States, Finland and the United Kingdom, including soldiers, students and tourists, contributed generously and helped us to raise more than ₩1,000,000 or over USD 1000. These donations bring us another step closer to achieving this year’s goal of raising 15 million won (USD 15,000) to save 6 North Korean refugees.

The event began with the screening of ‘CAMP 14: Total Control Zone’ (2012). Directed by Marc Wiese, this documentary tells the shocking but very moving story of a North Korean political camp prisoner’s fight for his freedom. Through animations the film recreated the harsh reality of camp life. The animations were accompanied by excerpts from interviews with a former prisoner and two former camp soldiers.

Following the documentary, North Korean defector Sungju Lee led a fascinating Q&A session. He briefly ran through his life story, revealing that he had recently graduated from Sogang University, Seoul, but grew up in Pyongyang. In Pyongyang he had lived an affluent life amongst North Korea’s privileged few, until his family was ousted from the capital to live a life of separation and starvation. He then spent four years as a kkotjebi (street child) before being saved by his grandfather and arriving in South Korea, after his father (who had defected a few years earlier) sent a broker for him.

His tale is an interesting one. He did not live in a political prison camp like the defector in the documentary, but experienced both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of life in North Korea. Thus, the differences between the documentary and his story stimulated many fascinating questions from those who attended, including questions about life in Pyongyang compared to Seoul, the extent of his knowledge of the camp system when he lived in Pyongyang, and about the rise of a market economy and his thoughts for unification in the future. As his academic studies focus on international relations and diplomacy (principally on diplomacy surrounding the reunification of Korea), his answer to the question about unification was particularly interesting.

The NKHR Rescue Fund will be holding similar events in the coming months. Please keep up-to-date with our Facebook page for more information. We look forward to seeing you at our next event!