North Korea: Former defector describes life in the South


2006.03.31
Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp

Kim Chunae is a former defector from North Korea, who has been living in Seoul for the last three years. In a recent column for RFA’s Korean service, she describes a simple trip to shop for electronic goods at a chain store:

Feb. 13, 2003: Two North Korean peasant women push trolleys with their farm produce on the road to Pyongyang. Photo: AFP/Goh Chai Hin

Last weekend I went to an electronics and appliances store called Hi-Mart with my son. It has been almost 3 years since I settled in South Korea, but it was the first time I had been shopping at Hi-Mart. Hi-Mart sells all kinds of electronics and appliances and makes me feel like I am seeing all the things that I have never seen in my life before. When I first went to China from North Korea, I went to a market in Yanji and my excitement made people laugh…

When I entered the store, tall and strong young workers greeted me. Despite the freezing winter weather, they were all wearing summer clothes and the store was so warm that it felt like summer. In the store, there were many products that I have never seen before…Some refrigerators were as big as a room and some wall-mounted TVs were incredibly big. There were all the products housework requires, including all different sizes of rice cookers, vacuums, and microwaves.

No matter how many times I walked around the store, I did not feel tired. The more I looked at the products in the store, the more I felt excited and curious. I touched this and that, wanting to buy everything in the store. I kept asking the sales people what was this and what was that and how to use it.

…I was wondering when North Korean women will be able to make rice with rice cookers and warm their food with electric appliances. The North Korean government once said women should be free from the heavy responsibilities of housework, but women in North Korea are too worried about survival to think about freedom. Women in my hometown also have to make charcoal and worry about scarce fuel in the winter. Although I am happy with my life here, I can’t sleep sometimes thinking about the people in my hometown.

I was wondering when North Korean women will be able to make rice with rice cookers and warm their food with electric appliances. The North Korean government once said women should be free from the heavy responsibilities of housework, but women in North Korea are too worried about survival to think about freedom,

Hi-Mart is not the only place…Wherever you go, there are large department stores and supermarkets, and they carry everything you can imagine…Since there are so many products in the market, salespeople treat customers like kings and they always answer customers’ questions with smiles, which makes me want to buy everything in the market.

…My son did not go to China and came to South Korean directly from North Korea, and he just stayed home for the first two months without going outside. He did not want to go out because so many products were available and he wanted to buy everything he saw.

Consequently, South Korean people’s homes are equipped with everything you can think of, and they wear such nice clothing that they even look different from North Koreans…If I could call my friends in North Korea, I would call every day to tell them how good my life is.

Please continue to send contributions to RFA's Women in Their Own Words project to women@rfa.org .

POST A COMMENT

Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.

COMMENTS

View Full Site