Arts, Culture & Media

North Koreans Cross Icy River and Slip Into a New World

North Koreans who flee their homeland aren't always government opponents.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

Some of those who risk their lives to escape into China, often wading through strong currents on the icy Tumen River are simply seeking a job and a way to feed their family.

That's according to Tania Branigan, a corresponent with the British newspaper The Guardian.

She recently spent time in a safe house with five North Koreans who told her their stories.

Branigan says some of the defectors still had faith in their leaders when they fled. Only after they experienced life outside their border did they become disillusioned with their homeland.

"North Korean propaganda has really centered around presenting the image of the leaders as these parent figures who are caring for the children around them, for the people. Whether people have necessarily liked what they're doing or not there's been a sense that they're sort of doing this for you," she says. "And when that is shattered, it is a very powerful and a very painful moment for people."

  • korea2.jpg

    Credit:

    REUTERS

    North Koreans are seen on the river bank of the North Korean town of Sinuiju, facing the Chinese border city of Dandong October 24, 2012. China on October 20, 2012 urged North and South Korea to exercise restraint and safeguard peace on the peninsula, after the communist north threatened to fire on the south. Impoverished North Korea said on Friday it would attack if Seoul allowed activists to drop anti-northern leaflets on its territory, in its most strident warning against its long-time foe for months. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS AGRICULTURE)

  • korea3.jpg

    Credit:

    REUTERS

    North Koreans are seen on the river bank of the North Korean town of Sinuiju, facing the Chinese border city of Dandong October 24, 2012. China on October 20, 2012 urged North and South Korea to exercise restraint and safeguard peace on the peninsula, after the communist north threatened to fire on the south. Impoverished North Korea said on Friday it would attack if Seoul allowed activists to drop anti-northern leaflets on its territory, in its most strident warning against its long-time foe for months. REUTERS/Aly Song (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS AGRICULTURE)

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