|Warren Kim, right, poses with members of Seoul Hiking Group at Mount Seorak earlier this year. / Courtesy of Warren Kim|
NK defector to speak about life in North
By John Redmond
Seoul Hiking Group offers a special tour of the DMZ with a North Korean defector Nov. 26.
The day trip will include a full DMZ tour including visits to the Imjingak Unification Park, the third infiltration tunnel, Dora Observatory, Dorasan Station and Tongil-chon Unification Village.
The highlight will be hearing about the tour from a North Korean defector.
The defector will speak on life in North Korea, including the economy, society, human rights, school days and family life.
The aim of the tour is raising awareness to the plight of North Korean defectors and their adjustment to South Korea, as well as raising funds for defector Choi Seong-kyeong to present a series of speeches in the United States to fellow defectors.
"We are helping defectors to have a normal life, role, job in Korea as members of society," organizer Warren Kim said.
Choi, who defected 10 years ago, works for a foundation helping North Korean youths find jobs and settle in the South.
Guests will also have the option of attending a dinner and sampling North Korean cuisine in Seoul.
The Korea Times spoke with organizer Warren Kim about what people can expect from the tour.
Q: Why did you get this group together?
A: Most DMZ trips offer a very superficial view of the conflict, sometimes sensationalizing the DMZ by telling the stories of famous incidents that occurred there, including one massacre.
I wanted to offer a tour that lets visitors talk, person to person, with someone with an inside perspective who could offer a more balanced view of life inside North Korea and life in South Korea as a defector. I think that point of view is valuable to visitors.
Q: How did you meet the defector?
A: We met coincidentally at a coffee shop in Itaewon and started planning trips soon after that meeting.
Q: What can we expect from the tour?
A: The tour takes visitors to Imjingak Unification Park, with its Freedom Bridge and other monuments hoping for future reunification, as well as Dorasan Station, which was built with the promise of opening a railway that would connect the Koreas with the entire Eurasian continent, but was never opened.
We'll also see the third infiltration tunnel, and an observatory into North Korea. During the drive to and from these destinations, the North Korean defector tells about her life and then opens up to a candid Q&A session. Visitors are welcomed to ask any questions they may be curious about. These discussions often last the entire bus ride back to Seoul, and visitors find them very interesting.
Warren Kim founded Seoul Hiking Group in 2009 to help visitors experience Korean culture.
This event is limited to 40 people and the cost is 45,000 won.
The fee goes to paying for the bus, express fee, booking, group discount, SHG administration, DMZ area tour, English guide, translation and the defector.
Participants must bring a passport.
For more, visit facebook.com/seoulhikingnature or the "DMZ Trip with North Korean Defector, N.K Cuisine Restaurant" Facebook event page.