June 9, 2015
What Can The Average American Do About North Korea?
What can the average American do about North Korea?
Not much in terms of policy, says Joseph Kim, a North Korean defector who fled from the country in 2003 when he was 13 years old. But for Kim, that’s hardly a reason to disengage.
Despite the seemingly bleak situation, Kim (now a 24-year-old college student) is speaking out for North Koreans. In 2013, he delivered an emotional TED talk describing his family’s experience in Pyongyang: his family’s starvation and abandonment and his eventual descent into homelessness –from which he escaped by running away to China.
Since then, Kim has written the more in-depth story of his survival titled “Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America,” which is out Tuesday, June 9. While Kim understands the limits Americans have in relating to and reaching out to North Koreans, he doesn’t think they excuse Americans from turning a deaf ear to North Korea’s stories. He appeared on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on Tuesday to share his own and made his suggestions about what can be done for people like him.
“I think political conversations take away the image of North Korea’s average people,” Kim said after the show. “It doesn’t have to be my book, but there are so many books on Amazon and so much free research. Once you have that information, once you find the motivation to help, there are so many ways you can help.”
He pointed to LINK, the organization that organized his journey to the U.S., and a student group in Texas that raised money to aid another North Korean defector by selling deep-fried Oreos on campus.
To learn more about North Korea and its people, here are Kim’s suggestions for Americans:
A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
Kim is still a student (he is looking to transfer to a university in New York or D.C.), but he hopes that this summer, he’s able to provide a nuanced view of North Koreans.
“North Koreans, in a sense, are portrayed as aliens. …There are a lot of political prison camps. But not every person is in a camp. I want people to imagine North Koreans as their friends who have similar aspirations –who like to be happy, who dream and hope of a better future.”