tv A North Korean Girls Journey to Freedom CSPAN June 10, 2018 4:59pm-5:43pm EDT
to join a party again. i would love to go back to the republican party. i'm sympathetic to various elements of both parties. but did you know 39% of the electorate in this country are independents, which is a larger group than both republicans and democrats. so this is really a sign when 39% of the electorate chooses not to be a member of either party. and so i think all kinds of things. it feels like it is a very fluid situation at the moment. >> you can watch this and other programs on-line at book tv.org. >> in anticipation of the u.s. north korea summit on june 12th, we have put together a block of programs on north korea.
>> hello everyone. thank you very much for coming to tonight's event. please take a moment to silence your cell phones. i also want to let you know you can keep up with our comings and goings-online or we have print out calendars at every information desk. c-span will be filming this event and your image may be captured. your presence here gives permission to be filmed. please raise your hand and wait
for the man with a microphone to come by if you want to ask a question. i also have an announcement, due to a technical need of moving to a new website platform, powell's books is closing early tonight. we expect this to be a lively discussion. we are not asking anyone to leave early. but we're asking that all purchases be made by 8:45. the bathrooms will also close at 8:45 tonight. tonight we are very happy to welcome our guest. she was born in north korea under the rule of kim jong-il in which she spent much of her childhood hungry and fearing of the government's controlling rule and only knowledge of what state media told her of the outside world. at 13 her family made a daring escape into china. she faced further challenges from being sold to traffickers to having to cross the desert into mongolia before finding freedom in south korea.
her new memoir which has been called an elegant honest work that vividly represents the plight of many north koreans details all the struggles and her new life as a humans rights activists giving speeches to crowded auditoriums and cities around the world. we will have author question-and-answer as i mentioned earlier and she will be up here to sign books for you. when that time comes, please line up on the left hand side of the room. we have books available for purchase on the cart right there. thank you very much for coming. now please welcome. [applause] >> can you see me? thank you very much. i'm honored to be here.
i can't believe i'm in the biggest independent bookstore in the u.s. i've never seen this many books in my life. i don't know, it is very humbling. you know lots of things, so i don't know if i can tell you something you never knew before. i'm here to tell you today about the people. i'm not going to talk about politics. i'm just here to talk about the true hearts of north koreans. they are people just like us. i was remembering my life in north korea, and i remember
it. there are two different of dictatorship in north korea, one, that you are not allowed to wear earrings. you are not allowed to wear jeans. you are not allowed to go another city without permission. you are not allowed to watch movies. you are not allowed to listen to films. you only have one channel on tv and about how great the regime is. the other dictatorship in north korea, that is emotional dictatorship. this regime controls emotions in the country. the very first thing my mom taught me was not to whisper because the birds and mice can even hear you. and i believed they had ears.
and i thought he could read my thoughts. so he could read my mind and he would punish me if i thought of him badly. from the very very beginning i wasn't allowed to think for myself. i didn't even know what independent thinking or critical thinking was. that was something you never know and you are never allowed to know. of course i never dreamed of i was going to be in this place with millions of books here and in front of you because it was very different. when i was in north korea, i never knew how many countries existed in the world. i never knew what internet was. i only believed what the schoolteacher taught me. and they never taught me about canada or australia, but they
taught me our enemies. my enemies were very clear, very simple. and they are trying to take us at every moment. and they are monsters. i never knew how diverse america was. i thought all blue eyes people walking around. so much diversity in this country. i can't believe it. i learned the math at school. the math problem was like this, there are four -- [inaudible].
that was my question. you can see i'm here today in front of my enemies. [laughter] >> so you neverknow. it is life. you really never know. and the poverty, starvation, oppression, it is all a part of north korean's life. we didn't know things can be different. we thought this is how life has been and this is how life supposed to be. we can't think of different possibilities, life can be different because we weren't allowed to watch movies for information and also not allowed to read books like here. we're not allowed to read about the philosophers. i didn't know what philosophy was or evolution.
and they told me there's nothing to envy in this world. we're the best country in the world and everybody wants to be like us and wants to come to our country. i was seeing the films. but our daily life was not that good. it was not really paradise. i remember because i was born 1993, and after soviet union collapsed, they stopped providing food to north korea. that's how during the 1995 to
1998, we say -- some people say 3 million people died. the total population was 22 million to 24 million. and you can imagine how many people died during that time. many lost their family members, including mine. one day i was very young and i saw my grandma was taking lots of medicines. and i was asking her, grandma, why are you taking so many medicines? and she was telling me i want some rest. she was 59 american age, very young. and after a few hours later, i heard my uncle was screaming and asking my grandma to wake up, and that's how she ended her life.
nobody told me what compassion was. there's no word for freedom in north korea. there's no word for human rights. there's no word for love. only love you can express in the country is love for the regime. i could never imagine i could hear my mom i love you. i never saw my father telling my mother i love you. everybody had to -- [inaudible]. the regime killing people with gunfire for watching dvds. but luckily i didn't get caught and i watched the dvds.
i watched 007 the action movie and i thought okay americans shooting each other all the time. [laughter] >> i don't know how they do it, but i cannot live there. [laughter] >> and later i saw wwe pro wrestling and i thought that's how all american men looked like. [laughter] >> and i saw the titanic. it is a great movie. but to me i couldn't process it when i saw that movie. i was shocked. how somebody make a movie? it is a love story. i cannot imagine somebody making a movie about the love story. i never knew who shakespeare
was. whole history is forgotten. you are not allowed to know where you are coming from. you just know you are the people of kim jong-il. it was how to me it was shocking. i was very hungry and i couldn't process anything after that. my life has been unbearable because my father got arrested and he sent to prison. he was born in this country. he's a normal businessman. because he was born in --
[inaudible] -- that's how he became prisoner and he got tortured. but when he was in prison, it is not at the level you can think of. the prisoners cannot look at the guards' eyes because they are not human beings. because people are not human beings. they treated like less than animals. i was at the age of 8 and my
sister was 11. [inaudibl [inaudible]. often we describe spring as a signal of life. we say spring and the life comes back. things grow again. but in north korea, spring is a season of death. nobody takes spring as a season of life. because people suffer during the winter and during the summer the plants grow and many people die during the spring. it's so different how we can
live this life. the only way i could live was going to china. i didn't know what was happening, but i knew if i go to china, i'm not going to die of starvation. at the age of 13 and my sister was 16, she left to china with her friend. and she left me with a note that she said if you go to find this lady, they can help you to go to china. and that's how the morning after -- seven days later, i could barely walk, we found the lady and she told me we could go to china that day. i didn't question why this lady was willing to help us. why this lady didn't ask money. we were just so desperate. and that's how we crossed the river in 2007. but i thought if i go to china, i didn't know what it means to
be free. i escaped for a better life. once i was in china, i saw my mother -- [inauble] in front of my eyes. my mom asked me what do you want to do? i thought i'm 13 years old. i was merchandise from that moment. [inaudible]. -- human trafficking. my mom was for $65. i was for $250. you can't even buy around -- buy an iphone with that money in
this country. but that was somebody's life. after that, the man who bought me let me go. and then i met christian missionaries and they told me for the first time if you go to free if you go to south korea. and i ask, i didn't know what it means to be free. what do you mean i can be free? and that person told me you can watch movies and freedom to me, that was freedom, not the freedom of speech, not freedom of election, freedom was very simple to me. that's how we risk our lives and walk across the desert in 2009. we had a little compass with us
and later we followed the northern star no freedom. that's how i became free. it was my journey to be free. but i had to cross another desert that i had to start thinking for myself and i had to learn about this world. i was a traveler. i never knew 24 hour electricity. i never knew how the airplane flies. i thought they may have wings. i didn't know how they were flying. i didn't know what human rights was. i remember when i saw on tv when i was in south korea, i could not believe what people talking about. i didn't know i had rights. in many country, i have rights. how different this world is. not only this i had to learn
about what a movie theater is, a supermarket, everything. i could talk and walk, but didn't know anything. people were asking me what do you think? i never had the privilege to use my freedom. i didn't have the option of what i was going to wear, what am i going to study. people were asking me what are you doing in the future? what is your favorite color? i didn't know what i wanted to do. i was hoping somebody can tell me, what i should do for my life. and then -- but not only that, i just lost all faith in humanity.
i just couldn't trust anybody again. what i believed in north korea, that was a lie, what you are telling is true? i just couldn't do it. [inaudible]. i thought this book is going to be about animals. i picked a very thin book. i just couldn't believe it because my grandma was in that, my mom was in that. they showed me the past north korea and the present north
korea. i realized that the north korean people deserved more. why these people are not allowed to learn these books? these people are not different. they are just like us. they had a different political system. north korea, the most darkest place on earth. and we should stop this. and to me, are things really that bad? how come is that so bad? it is really that bad. that's why we're not allowed to go to the country to see the
people. that's why i'm telling my story. that's why i wrote this book. i hope you can learn something and you can do something about this tragedy. we have lots of things, i say. if i had the things you throw away in this country, i never would have escaped. i never would have been enslaved. i hope it can spread the word, and let the world know that the north korean people can be free like us. thank you very much for taking the time to come to listen to my talk. thank you. [applause]
>> anybody have questions? >> i'm very fond of going on youtube and looking at north korean videos that are posted, and we always see the north korean people cheering madly and crying, weeping when they see their grand leader and all like that, how much of that do you think is real and how much is just because they know they better do that? >> it is a good question. actually i wonder the same thing. when i was in north korea, everybody is watching each other and we cannot trust each other. we don't know who the spies.
i could be a spy too. i spy on you. you spy on me. we could not escape that process. somebody is watching me so i have to report to you. that person is going to be punished. that kind of system. everybody is watching on each other. they can be spy and they can be spied. that's how they keep controlling this country and spread the fear. nobody is telling the truth. i didn't tell the truth either. so i don't know. people had to clap to survive. if they don't clap, they're going to get killed. that's their fate. if people don't clap, they will get killed. it cannot be true.
that's all that matters. not the question is it really true or not? if the don't do it, they are going to get killed. they have to do it to survive. crazy. thank you. >> about three years ago there was another author who co-wrote a book with a guy who had escaped -- >> escaped -- yes. >> have you met him? >> he's my friend. >> oh, okay, good. >> yeah. do you have a question about that? >> just wondered if you had a chance to contact him or knew him, but you do.
>> [inaudible]. he's living his freedom. i think he's doing really well. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> what were the circumstances when for the first time you actually felt free? >> thank you. i still don't know honestly what it means to be free, free. i think i'm learning it every day. freedom is lots of things. i think freedom is everything for me. once i found the freedom, i became a human being. i can talk and think for myself. but i think when i was able to
read a book, i had to catch up on lots of stuff. i just had to read to survive unless i'm not going to be able to talk to you guys because i would be like alien. i would ask you what's mars? you know, what's satellite? so to me it is like when i fly, it's freedom. how i imagine i was going to take an airplane, i didn't even know what passport was when i was in north korea. i just didn't know traveling freely was something allowed for human beings to do. so just everything that we do and even have this voice, yeah. thank you. >> i have a question about your
english which is quite good. where did you learn it? and have you been practicing? and also, i have another question about what the story with your sister. >> uh-huh. so my sister, she came to us after seven years ago and we met in freedom again. so we survived, and we carried on, never gave up, and that's how -- so she's in freedom now and she's safe. for english, it's kind of not that -- i watch american tv show "friends". [laughter] >> 24 episodes and 10 seasons, so 240 episodes, has it, if you repeat that for like 30 times, you really have this english for
sure, very very sure. [laughter] >> so i know lots of -- people look at me and they are like what's wrong with you? [laughter] >> that's how i -- tv shows. that show also taught me culture, that we eat turkeys for thanksgiving, you know, all those kind of things. so i really liked it. >> i've read that a lot of north korean defectors, once they got to south korea, they felt tremendous hostility towards them, meaning they weren't welcomed. >> uh-huh. >> did you have the same experience amongst the south koreans towards you?
>> yeah, it's -- not a tragedy. you think north korea and you escape china, then south korea then everything would be all right, no. i don't know, it's very -- dilemma for me why south koreans have so much things, other countries, they have compassion, they have generosity and kindness but they have a very ignorant attitude towards north korean human rights issues so i think because of the korean war, once i go to south korea, they often say i a spy.
they might just joke, but that's kind of a big thing, why are you here, i a spy. they are also a very competitive society so they think we come there and steal their jobs, so we increase competition, so we are like the less educated people, so we might be -- we have like more like higher crime rates and those kind of stereotypes. you don't work hard. you are not trustworthy. you don't know anything, and you have different accent. so that's the kind of stereotypes aga us so we also had to fight against that. >>.
online. that is how i met with north korea. thank you. i was wondering do you ever miss anything and was a normal day like in north korea backs what is this like if you love someone or you're dating on in north korea >> this can be the fun part. so, imagine you don't have the music, you don't have any technology or sound. you only hear the sounds a human can make because they are washing dishes, cooking, talking
i never knew what romance was. we have nowhere to go on dates. i just recently read an article and it broke my heart. you never can imagine that is his dream and today for like several times it can be somebody's dream ended and he wantthen hewants to take his wia drive and i think we don't have the luxury to think about romance. we don't have romantic novels,