Photo Gallery Life as a North Korean Defector

Over a decade ago, a former North Korean military officer fled south after being accused of negligence and threatened with death. Now he coordinates the escapes of fellow North Koreans. But the price of freedom is often the lives of loved ones left behind.
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After hearing the stories North Korean defectors tell once they are in Seoul, it is easy to understand why they risked everything to escape the regime. Officially, the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" provides its citizens with all of life's essentials. But, in reality, many could hardly survive without the black market or a garden in the mountains. Here, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses with officers and soldiers in May 2013.

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The families of defectors are often imprisoned or sometimes even executed as a punishment. Kim sketched what a typical execution looks like, with the condemned person blindfolded, tied to wooden stakes and shot three times. He has been on the shooting side of one himself.

Foto: Katharina Hesse/ DER SPIEGEL
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Escape routes North Koreans use to reach South Korea.