Source: Wide Angle: "Crossing Heaven's Border"
Heaven on Earth Transcript (Document)
Narration: Defectors started pouring out of North Korea in the mid 1990s, when its economy collapsed and its citizens endured a catastrophic food shortage known as the great famine. Up to a million North Koreans died.
Narration: Hunger and poverty still drive some to defect… so too, do the policies of North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Il.
Narration: The so-called “Dear Leader” rules with the aid and allegiance of an all-pervasive secret-police force. Citizens are spied on. Those deemed not loyal enough are sent to live in prison camps.
Narration: But the journalists would learn from North Korean defectors that they aren’t just escaping from something… but also to something.
Lee Hark Joon: It’s not just because of starvation or hatred toward Kim Jong Il. They escape for hope. There is no hope there. We called our story “Crossing Heaven’s Border.” People ask if that means they’re crossing out of heaven, because North Korean propaganda says “North Korea is Heaven on Earth.” But it’s not that. By escaping, they think they are crossing into heaven. They are continuously reaching for their Heaven. That's their hope.
Narration: That heaven, for most, is South Korea…where defectors hope to one day share in a Korean culture that includes more free expression and a first world standard of living.
Narration: But for the estimated 100,000 North Koreans living underground in China, heaven is a long way off.
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