North Korea

North Korean defectors to speak at Hong Kong film festival

Three features, two documentaries scheduled for event next weekend

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 August, 2013, 3:30am

Mention North Korea to Hongkongers and the first thoughts that pop into their mind are likely about nuclear weapons, the propaganda celebrating its leader Kim Jong-un or perhaps the term "axis of evil" coined during the era of US president George W. Bush.

But few people have a clear understanding of the hardship suffered by the country's 24 million people or the difficulty that defectors face adapting to their new homes.

However, next weekend, two defectors will share their personal experiences at Hong Kong's first North Korea Human Rights Film Festival.

"All tickets for free admission were fully booked in a few days after we made the announcement, and 150 people are planning to attend the event," said Owen Lau Kwun-hang of organiser North Korean Defectors Concern.

The festival will be held in Jordan and will show three feature films: Crossing - South Korean submission to the Oscars for Best Foreign Film in 2008 - Engaged and Traveller from the North .

Two documentaries will also be shown: The Defector: Escape from North Korea and The People's Crisis.

One of the North Koreans who will share his experiences is Kim Kyu-min, co-director of Crossing. Kim, now 39, defected in 1999 but was caught by Chinese authorities and was sent to prison in North Korea.

He defected one more time, through Mongolia, and arrived in South Korea in 2001.

The other speaker is Lee Aram, 25, who used to work in the North Korean police force. Her family members were South Korean military prisoners taken to the North by force. After she defected in 2008, her father was sent to a prison camp and died there.

"Hongkongers are interested in North Korea but they know little about the country's human-rights issues," Lau said. "What we are trying to do is to link up the two by organising soft events like film fests … we would like to organise the fest again next year if we have the funds."