The Defector: Escape From North Korea

The Defector: Escape From North Korea

Directed by: Ann Shin
71 minutes

East Coast Premiere

English and Korean/Chinese with English subtitles

Each year, thousands of North Koreans attempt to flee their country and seek a better life in a less oppressive society. Escape is not easy: many die in the attempt, while many others are captured and imprisoned, repatriated, or even sold into slavery. Most of those who try to escape want to go to South Korea, but the border between the two countries is the most heavily militarized in the world: impossible to cross. As a result, defectors escape first into China, which doesn’t recognize them as refugees, in the hope that they can eventually make it to a place that will.

THE DEFECTOR takes a close look at the experience of North Korean defectors by literally joining them as they attempt to make it to freedom. Director Ann Shin introduces us to Dragon, a former North Korean army commando, who himself escaped from the country and now works as a “broker,” arranging hundreds of North Koreans’ escape from the country. His group includes Sook-ja, who is searching for her missing sister, and Yong-hee, who has run away from a forced marriage. Together they will embark on a dangerous 3,000-mile journey—by bus, train, and van through China, and on foot through the perilous jungles of Laos—to Thailand, where they can apply for refugee status. Tense and riveting, THE DEFECTOR takes us inside the world of human smuggling to reveal the unbelievable lengths to which many go in search of freedom.

—Kristina Aikens