Interviews with North Korean Defectors : From Kim Shin-jo to Thae Yong-ho book cover
1st Edition

Interviews with North Korean Defectors
From Kim Shin-jo to Thae Yong-ho

ISBN 9780367716165
Published July 22, 2021 by Routledge
296 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Originally compiled and written by North Korean defector and author Lim Il, this English-language edition, thoroughly annotated by Dr. Adam Zulawnik, is a fascinating collection of 34 interviews with highly prominent North Korean defectors residing in South Korea, ranging from religious figures, to artists, politicians, North Korea experts, and even divers and subway train operators.

The 33 interviews herein are listed chronologically according to the interviewees' date of arrival to South Korea and span almost 70 years. The book also includes six special columns addressing key issues pertaining to North Korean defectors and their lives in South Korea, such as the relationship between North Korean defectors and their South Korean counterparts (South Korean defectors to North Korea; nomenclature (how North Korean defectors have been referred to in South Korean society over time); arrival and settlement provisions from the South Korean government; the nuanced difference between defectors, defector-residents, and the displaced; North Korean defector-residents and their position in South Korean politics; and a short biography of five notable North Korean defector-residents who were not interviewed. The English translation also contains an exclusive 34th interview with Lim Il, the source text author which was carried out towards the end of the project in October 2020.

The book is a valuable testament to North Korean defector-residents and unique in that it provides a candid account of each individual’s experience. It will prove to be especially useful to students and scholars seeking to understand the complex dynamics of North Korean society and the status of exiles in South Korea, and a vital resource for students of Korean Studies.

Table of Contents

The infinity symbol (∞) is used to separate interviewee occupations prior to and after defection to South Korea. The interviews are listed chronologically based on the year of defection to South Korea.

Map 1. East Asia;

Map 2. North Korea;

Map 3. Central Pyongyang;

Critical introduction from Adam Zulawnik;

Source text introduction by Lim Il;


Translation Teams;

1. Kim Shin-jo | Korean People’s Army soldier ∞ pastor 

2. Ahn Chan-il | Korean People’s Army soldier ∞ chairman of Sungy Dongji association 

3. Chon Chol-woo | Exchange student in Germany ∞ president of Gohyang FS 

4. Kang Chol-hwan | Yodok Prison Camp inmate ∞ chairman of the North Korea Strategy Center 

5. Im Young-sun | Korean People’s Army soldier ∞ chairman of the Committee for the Nine Northern Korean Provinces 

Special column: South Korean defectors and North Korean defector-residents

6. Kim Tae-bom | North Korean logger in Russia ∞ director of the Peace Unith Korea Defectore Alliance

7. Kang Myung-do | Premier Kang Sung-san’s son-in-law ∞ university professor

8. Cho Myung-chul | Teacher at Kim Il-Sung university ∞ member of the 19th National Assembly (2012), politician

9. Ahn Myeong-cheol | Security guard in the Korean People's Army ∞ president of NK Watch

10. Jeong Seong-san | Korean People's Army soldier ∞ musical director

Special column: North Korean defector-residents and naming problems

11.  Rhee Min-bok | Agricultural researcher ∞ leader of anti-North Korean balloon propaganda program

12. Han Yong-su | Korean People's Army soldier ∞ first North Korean metro train operator

13. Jeong Nam | Railway worker ∞ president of Glov Co., Ltd. (sunflower oil producer)

14. Shim Ju-il | Korean People's Army soldier ∞ head of North Korean Soldiers of Christ Association

15. Kim Seong-min | Korean People's Army soldier ∞ founder and president of Free North Korea Radio

Special column: Arrival support and benefits

16. Park Sang-hak | trader ∞ chairperson of Fighters for a Free North Korea

17. Hong Sun-kyung | North Korean envoy to Thailand ∞ North Korea expert

18. Joo Myung-shin | University teacher ∞ chairperson of North Korean Defector Artists’ Association

19. Park Kwang-il | Middle school teacher ∞ chair of Youth Forum of North Korea Democratization

20. Song Byeok | Jik’gwan seondong (propaganda) operative ∞ artist

Special column: Displaced persons and North Korean defector-residents 

21. Kim Tae-san | President of Joseon-Czech joint footwear venture ∞ North Korea expert

22. Joo Seung-hyun | Korean People's Army soldier ∞ university professor

23. Kim Heung-kwang | University teacher ∞ director of the North Korean Intellectuals Solidarity

24. Jeon Ju-myeong | Youth worker ∞ president of Unity Preparations North Korean Defectors’ Association

25. Park Seong-jin | University student ∞ Sohaegeum musician

Special column: North Korean defector-residents and South Korean politics

26. Park Myung-ho | Party loyalist  ∞ first North Korean defector-resident diver

27. Ji Seong-ho | Disabled youth ∞ president of NAUH

28. Lee Ung-gil | University student ∞ president of Saeteomin Lounge

29. Jang Se-yul | University teacher ∞ president of Gyeore’eol Unification Solidarity

30. Choi Hyeon-jun | Protection agent ∞ president of Unification Future Solidarity

Special column: Other notable North Korean defector-residents

31. Kim In-chul | Trader ∞ president of Jiwon Publishing

32. Im Kang-jin | Korean People's Army soldier ∞ private business owner

33. Thae Yong-ho | North Korean minister in the UK ∞ North Korea expert

Afterword from the author

34. Exclusive interview with author Lim Il | Construction worker in Kuwait ∞ writer

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Lim Il is a church pastor and regular contributor to Tong’il Shinmun (Unity News). He is himself a North Korean defector, having previously worked as a construction worker in Kuwait. He has authored multiple books in Korean.

Adam Zulawnik is an Academy of Korean Studies Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Monash University, Australia. He was a founding member of the Korean Studies program at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His current research focuses on the translation of the Korean and Japanese languages in political and historical settings.


"Dr. Adam Zulawnik has given us a true masterpiece through his collaboration with Lim Il on Interviews with North Korean Defectors. It holds nothing back in understanding the pain and suffering, joy and desires of those who have escaped from one of the world’s worst regimes. It is raw, honest, and candid. Nothing out there compares. The work will make you laugh, make you cry, but most of all, inspire you as a powerful testament to the human spirit. This book is your hard evidence that despite the brutal tyranny of the triple Kim dictatorships, the spirit of the Korean people, their love of family and their homeland could never be crushed. It is extremely timely as we see so much growing discontent among the North Korea people that so desire change especially as they learn more and more about South Korea’s thriving prosperity. This book introduces us to the very actors in the defector community who are working for the peaceful liberation of their homeland – most of whom plan to return to rebuild and invest so that prosperity and hope can return."---Ms. Suzanne Scholte, Seoul Peace Prize Laureate; President, Defense Forum Foundation; Chair, North Korea Freedom Coalition; Chair, Free North Korea Radio

"Through these personal interviews, which are deeply intimate and tear-jerking true stories, the reader obtains a human-faced and close-up portrait of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), its society, and the people’s sentiments. The jigsaw puzzle pieces of North Koreans’ faces come together as mosaics in a greater authentic portrait story and faithful imprints of reality."---Dr Gabor Sebo, Lecturer, Yonsei University