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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Refugees having big impact on North society


Staff writer

North Korea may be a hardline communist state, but it hasn't succeeded in eliminating the public's desperate urge for Hollywood entertainment.

There have been "unbelievable changes" within the reclusive state due to the massive flow of refugees, according to Mike Kim, who helps North Korean refugees through his nonprofit organization Crossing Borders.

Kim, a Korean-American, said defectors often visit China and return to North Korea after learning about the world through TV. Many then pass on their experiences to close neighbors, causing Western culture to infiltrate their communities.

Kim said a North Korean woman in Pyongyang recently asked an acquaintance of his for a DVD set of the hit U.S. TV show "Desperate Housewives," indicating how "information is getting in" to North Korea.

"We know that people are learning the truth about the world, and we are optimistic," he said.

Kim entered China in 2003 and operated under the cover of a tae kwon do student to assist defectors cross over to China. While statistics show that about 50 percent of such North Koreans choose to return home eventually, he said many remain helpful in exchanging information about what's going on in the North.

Pyongyang has closed its doors to the world as the U.N. Security Council prepares to mete out a resolution in response to the North's nuclear test last month. Reports have said ailing dictator Kim Jong Il has picked his third son, Kim Jong Un, to be his successor.

Mike Kim acknowledged that he could not speculate on what effect the flow of refugees has on the regime, but stressed there has been a lot of change in regard to the spread of information.

"When other regimes have been toppled, many times it has happened at a time you didn't expect it to," he said.



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