We hear tales of what life is life for everyday people in North Korea, but this short film illustrates that the desire for two young girls to escape is worth risking death.
Why did you decide to tell this story?
It was summer of 2012 when I read an article about ‘double defectors’ in the New York Times. I was shocked to learn that some North Korean defectors actually double-defect back to North Korea because they have difficulties settling to the life in South Korea. I couldn’t imagine what the extent of their loneliness or difficulties pushed them to make such horrifying decision. It all started there, I kept thinking about the defector’s experience after their defect. The character of Mi-Jin came to me as I was trying to understand their hardships in their newly earned life. Then I started writing my first feature screenplay, “Fly Away,” about Mi-Jin, a 25-year-old North Korean defector who lives in South Korea. This short film is a flash back scene in my feature screenplay.
How did you learn about what the escape experience is like?
I read a lot; a lot of news articles, then watched a lot of defector interviews. Then once Keola Racela came onboard to direct and co-write the film, we made our first trip to South Korea where we sat down with two North Korean defectors. They shared their own stories, their friends’ stories, and also gave us notes towards our film.
Is it common for those escaping to carry poison with them?
From our research, the most common thing is to either carry a rat poison with them or a small razor. It was the one thing almost all defector testimonials had in common.
What do you hope will happen when people see this film? Is there any hope of smuggling it into North Korea?
This is not an activist film by any means, but it is a story that I believe could play a wider role in encouraging the diverse exchange of ideas that is crucial to fostering an open society and public dialogue about this contemporary human rights issue. The devastating journey these two sisters had to go through is just the beginning. Every year, thousands of North Koreans risk their lives to escape political and economic oppression but the Chinese government does not recognize them as refugees but as illegal economic migrants and routinely deports them back to the North. I hope the film will get more people talking about this issue, which is always a good start to making a difference.
North Korea? Or does the world just not care?
I don’t think the world does not care, I just think not a lot of people know enough about what’s going on. I myself as a Korean knew about the subject but didn’t know enough and am still learning. When enough people know and talk about it, I think it’ll make a difference. Life in North Korea is something we cannot do much about but what goes outside of North Korea where we live, we can make a difference and I think the defectors should at least reach a safe zone once they’ve risked their lives to cross that river.