Joseph Kim Interview Transcript

Jeannie Choi: Well first Joseph I wanted to ask you about your life and your memories of growing up in North Korea, because many of us don't know what it's like, obviously. So will you share with me your best and worst memories of growing up in North Korea?

Joseph Kim: Sure. I guess my worst memory was that, how I lost my family because of starvation. I think my best memory was that, like holidays, because on holidays I had enough food and so I wasn't hungry at all.

And who would give you food on a holiday?

My parents.

And what kind of food would they give you?

Rice and side dishes and Korean traditional bread.

Great. But over-all, in general, life in North Korea was very hard, is that right?


Did you go to school in North Korea or were you working?

I went to elementary school [for] about four years, and after four years I basically worked.

And where did you work?

It depends. It wasn't like this job that I could work every day, so some day I could work as [a] farmer, some day I could work as [a] coal miner.

Were most of the kids your age in North Korea also living the same kind of life as you, working and begging for food?

I can say that in my [inaudible], maybe twenty or thirty percent of kids lost their family, so their life is like very similar to me.

You were able to escape from North Korea to China. Share with me the story of your escape from North Korea.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2009
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