How Would You Escape North Korea? (The 7 Choices)

If you were living in North Korea right now,
starving, dirt poor trying to survive on a diet of rats, grass,
soil and tree bark quenching your thirst by drinking out of
mud puddles in the ground. What would you do? Oh, and there’s also the conceivable chance
of being sent to a political prison camp for years on end just because you innocently thought
out loud one day to a bunch of friends where you are then beaten, tortured, and left so
hungry that you are forced to dig and consume the grains out of faeces, or the maggots from
dead bodies just so you have the energy to perhaps
last one more day. You’d probably wanna escape. But how? The North Korean government refuses to let
its citizens leave, a clear violation of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights, viewing escapees as traitorous criminals,
who, if caught, would be subject to unimaginable
torture and often public executions. If they are successful in their escape, then
three to four generations of their family back home would be sent to prison camps,
to rot … or worse. This is a strong deterrent. But this still doesn’t stop desperate North
Koreans from tempting fate. In this video, I’ll go over the seven ways
to escape North Korea, including the most dangerous, the most unforgiving,
the most unique, and the most unexpected. We’ll start with what seems the most obvious
choice, crossing the Korean DMZ that’s the Korean demilitarised zone that separates
North and South Korea. Those who know little about Korea might think:
Why not just cross here? (Bad idea) The 250 km DMZ is the most heavily, militarised
border in the world, guarded by almost two million troops
on both sides. If you try to escape this way, you’re likely
to either step on a landmine, get electrocuted, or be gunned down in cold blood This is the most dangerous way to escape
North Korea. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Under these conditions, civilians just about
never make it across safely, and that’s why almost all successful DMZ crossings are from
North Korean soldiers who were, actually, supposed to be guarding the border. This is not the route to take for the average
North Korean. But perhaps traveling by sea, is a more
acceptable option. In the last 40 years, some North Korean families
have attempted to make the journey by boat to South Korea. With no passport, visa or money, South Korea
is the most logical destination, as the South Korean government welcomes
all North Korean refugees with open arms considering them their own citizens. It’s the easiest way to overall safety and security. Now, if you’re escaping by sea, you can either
leave from the west coast or the east coast. If you leave from somewhere here, it is
geographically and navigationally easier but since the government is well aware of that,
you’re likely to be caught by their naval patrols. Up here, you can try a different route. A safer one perhaps, further out to sea…
except it’s not really safer. The seas are unpredictable and many things
can go wrong. Remember, you’re dirt poor and you’re probably on a
small, flimsy boat with no real navigational equipment The current could take you back to North Korea or you could end up in China,
perhaps equally as bad. North Korean defectors are considered illegal
economic migrants in China, and with the two countries being allies, those captured would
be repatriated back to a life of horror. So maybe try departing from the east coast. Here, the conditions are more dangerous in
a way, but unlike the west coast if you drift too far, you’ll reach the safety of Japan,
and the Japanese are not going to send you back to North Korea. You’re free to carry on. To avoid being spotted by North Korean patrols,
you can always try swimming to South Korea. Not really recommended as you’ll probably
freeze or drown, but if you’re a strong swimmer, you might have a chance. Now, the next three all start off the same way,
by crossing the northern border into China It’s less risky than the DMZ, but that’s like
saying Kim Jong-il is less cruel than Kim Jong-un. Both options suck. Nonetheless, up here you have the choice of
crossing either the Yalu River or the Tumen River this is the border between North Korea
and China. The Tumen river is the more popular route
as it is generally an easier crossing point. But even so, most don’t make it across alive. Dead bodies are often seen floating downstream. North Korean border patrol also maintain a
significant presence in the area. Guards will shoot you at will if they see
you escaping, and many even hide underground pointing their guns upwards through holes,
waiting for the opportune time to surprise you with a shower of bullets. Now if you make it to China without dying
or being caught, life doesn’t get much easier. We already know that the Chinese authorities
can arrest you and send you back at any time, but there’s also the chance of being kidnapped
for human trafficking. Many North Korean escapees get caught up in
this black market trade, men are sold as slaves, and women are often forced into prostitution. Or if lucky, they’d be sold as wives to Chinese
villagers living deep in the countryside. I say lucky because many women in this situation
actually consider themselves fortunate There’s now a roof over their head and food on the
table, an upgrade from life in North Korea. Those who aren’t trafficked have to adapt
to life in the slums and on the run. They can’t get a job legally and there’s no
medical care. It’s quite possible that if you get sick or
injured, you just die on the streets. Not surprisingly, for many escapees, China isn’t
supposed to be the endgame. It’s obviously not sustainable. South Korea is still the intended destination
for the reasons I’ve already mentioned. So, if possible, it would seem to make sense to
head to the South Korean embassy to seek asylum or the office of the United Nation
High Commissioner for Refugees, both in Beijing. But once again, it’s not that easy. The Chinese police often stake out the South
Korean embassy and the UNHCR office likely to arrest any North Koreans before they
even make it in. If you are lucky enough to get in, yes the Chinese
can’t get you, as there’s immunity within the embassy but for how long? Even if South Korea approves your defection, you’re
going to have to leave the embassy at some point to get to a plane to fly to Seoul. So you’re still going to have to set foot
in China, and that’s when Chinese authorities can grab you. You don’t want to end up in a situation like
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who’s now trapped indefinitely at the Ecuadorian
embassy in London. Because of this, the next best option is to
somehow make your way to a third country, that has close ties to South Korea and, preferably,
minimal ties to North Korea so you can freely get to an embassy without
fear of arrest and repatriation. This is where Asia’s Underground Railroad
comes into play. This dangerous network of routes that takes
you through China’s underground is meant to lead to safe haven in Southeast Asia. But Southeast Asian countries have varying
levels of commitment to North Korea. Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar can be options
for some, but the chances of deportation once caught, are quite high. Thailand, on the other hand, appears the safest option. North Koreans aren’t given refugee status
in Thailand, but the Thai government will deport them back to ‘Korea’ Not to North Korea, but to South Korea where
they’d be safe. In fact, many North Koreans will surrender
themselves to the Thai police as soon as they cross the border into Thailand. The journey from China to Thailand isn’t straight
forward though. It’s fraught with peril and uncertainty, and
at any moment you can be caught by police who frequently stop buses and trains to check
passports and identification. If they question you, your lack of Chinese or
your heavy North Korean accent would give it away Now, if you make it to the southern border,
you have to go through Laos, to get to Thailand. Laos, similar to China, isn’t friendly to defectors so it’s too risky to cross near the border checkpoint. Instead, you have to detour through the Laotian
jungle and mountainous terrain. If you’re able to make it across Laos,
well you’re almost there. The Mekong River is the final obstacle, and
crossing that border, you’ve now made it to the relative safety
of Thailand. The South Korean embassy should take care
of the rest. Now, more treacherous than Asia’s Underground
Railroad may be escaping through the Gobi Desert,
to Mongolia. The Gobi Desert is a vast, barren region in
northern China and southern Mongolia, known for it’s dunes, mountains, and
temperature extremes with the occasional roaming snow leopards,
bears and wolves not a place you want to cross Despite this, the appeal of a much shorter
journey to Mongolia makes it a legitimate option Also Mongolia, unlike like some other Asian countries, has shown to be sympathetic towards North Korean refugees often sending them straight to South Korea
with minimal bureaucratic resistance. Over the years, however, tightened border control
has made traveling the Gobi desert route less common. So far we’ve only talked about resettlement
in South Korea but defectors can also seek asylum in Western countries maybe through foreign embassies, the UNHCR, NGO’s or physically making the arduous trek
to a country’s border and tapping on the shoulder of a border guard. There are several reasons why a North Korean
would choose a Western country over the guaranteed security of South Korea. It could be related to discrimination, life opportunities
or friends and family, just to name a few. There have actually been people from other countries
who have pretended to be North Korean defectors in order to gain refugee status,
so the vetting process very strict. Sometimes a genuine North Korean defector
will be wrongly accused of being a fraudster and get deported back to the country they
think he’s from. And if that country is China…. well that’s
just cruel. As of now, there’s somewhere between a thousand
to two thousand North Korean refugees living in Europe. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK are all reported to have small North
Korean communities. The largest in Europe is in South West London
with approximately 700 defectors. It should be noted that Great Britain has accepted
more North Koreans than almost any other country and provided them with homes,
financial support and other social benefits. Trying to seek asylum in the US is always
an interesting dynamic as North Koreans are taught to regard the
American Imperialists as evil from a young age. They are North Korea’s greatest enemy after all. Even though defectors are likely to harbor ill-will
towards their own government it’s hard to escape their propaganda that they’ve
been exposed to all their lives. As such, many would rather seek asylum elsewhere. But then there are those who realise that
if America is supposed to be the great enemy of the regime that they’re escaping from,
then they’re probably safe there. There’s one catch though, the processing time
for the application can take up to several years and with no stability, anything can happen
during that time. One particular defector revealed – he had
made his way through Asia’s Underground Railroad, to Thailand. But when he found out the wait time could
be years, he decided to hop on a boat to Argentina, trek through the South American terrain, then
cross the Mexican border with a bunch of Mexicans Today he is a US citizen. We don’t have to illegally cross any borders
for this next one. North Korea is notoriously known for it’s
labor camps, where people live under insanely harsh, working conditions. But it’s not just within their own country
that this happens. North Korea outsources its labor force to
several other countries including Poland and Russia Russia has the largest North Korean work force
outside the DPRK when it comes to labor camps. People who are chosen to work in these camps,
usually logging camps, live and work in remote regions of Russia’s
Far East. Squalid living quarters, inedible food, insane work
hours, ridiculously minimal pay – often withheld pay and fixed 10-year contracts
are the norm in this wintry hell-hold. Despite this, many North Koreans fight tooth-and-nail
to be the ones selected to work overseas; to work as, essentially, slave labourers. This is because working in Russia, even under
these conditions, can seem favourable to the misery back home. But there’s another reason why…
(Escape!) No heavily guarded borders, no landmines,
you just have to escape from the labor camp. Of course if it were that easy, we’d have
a lot more defectors in the world. In order to qualify for these Siberian labor camps you have to go through an extreme vetting process
by the government. You have to be in good physical condition, you have to have a history of toeing the party line and – and this one’s a biggie – you have to be
married with children. Why? Hostages. If you escape, your wife and kids will suffer
the consequences. You can imagine, this is enough to keep most
workers in line. But it’s not full-proof. If you’re able to trick party officials into
getting the job, and are able to later smuggle your family out of
North Korea you might have a chance. Of course, you can always circumvent that
last part by ditching your family altogether and sadly, this happens too often. To even put people in this situation is infuriating
for many of us watching, but when you find out almost all the money
that these workers earn get sent back to Pyongyang to fund pointless nuclear projects and
Kim Jong-un’s life of luxury it’s too much Finally, we get to the one that’s different
from all the rest. The last six were mainly directed towards
North Koreans who were poor or had little to no social privileges. It’s a completely different dynamic when it
comes to the North Korean elite. They have security and stability so defections
are comparatively rare. But they still happen. It isn’t the hunger or poverty that’s the
driving factor here, but intellectual freedom or political beliefs. Many of the privileged come from families
working for the North Korean government, military or state businesses abroad and are therefore more likely to have unfiltered
exposure to other cultures and their media. This exposure is still heavily restricted
by the government, and often times illegal, but having money, grants you access, one way
or another and once your eyes are open to how
the rest of the world lives there may be no going back Especially for the emerging generation who are
filled with unmatched ambition and drive. If you’re of Pyongyang’s elite and have decided
to defect, it is so much easier. You have the funds to pay escape brokers to
smuggle you out of the country. If you’re caught by border security, you can
bribe your way out. You can afford fake South Korean passports
and IDs so even if you’re stopped by, say, Chinese police, you wouldn’t look the part of an impoverished defector, especially with your blinged out appearance. You can also pay for flights instead of making
your way through Asia’s underground railroad or the Gobi desert. Even better if you’re a student, who has the
rare opportunity to travel or study overseas, maybe you’re an exchange student in Europe
or representing North Korea in some sort of an international competition this makes escaping a lot more straightforward. Of course delegations travelling overseas
are always kept on a tight leash so you would still have to be extremely careful. Don’t forget your family back home would also
likely suffer if you escaped so it’s never that easy. If you’re a North Korean diplomat who is stationed
overseas, it’s physically quite easy to escape, but as a result, it’s policy to have to leave
your children behind in Pyongyang when you are dispatched abroad. Once again, hostages. Fortunately for Thae Yong-ho, North Korea’s
former deputy ambassador to Britain, he managed to convince the state to allow him to
take his children and wife to London. Being a high-ranking member of the regime,
he was granted this privilege. With nothing holding him back, he was now
able to defect to South Korea with his whole family. Thae is the highest-profile North Korean defection
in recent times and was a huge blow to the DPRK. After his escape, North Korean state media
did what they always do. In an attempt to save face, and after denouncing
him as ‘human scum’, they accused him of embezzling state funds, spying for money, and of course, raping a child. Thae has now dedicated his life to taking
down Kim Jong-un and the North Korean regime. And this, is really the only way to truly
make your escape from North Korea taking down the regime as no matter what route you took, or where you
ended up the North Korean government will always try
and hunt you down. Especially if you’re an outspoken critic or
a perceived threat to Kim Jong-un’s power. Just ask his half-brother. From one humanitarian disaster to another, you can check out the 10 Things You Didn’t Know
About The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb by clicking the video on top, otherwise click the one below if you prefer
something else. I hope you enjoyed this topic, and if you have any
questions or thoughts, let us know down below. Thanks for watching, hit that like button,
and stay tuned for more-interesting Asiany videos.

100 thoughts on “How Would You Escape North Korea? (The 7 Choices)

    – The only way to 'take down the regime' as I mentioned at the end of the video is to help disseminating as much information about South Korea and the rest of the world to everyday North Koreans, so they can create their own 'Korean Spring' uprising and revolution. Change must start internally.
    – To the people who keep saying the video is useless/stupid because internet is banned in North Korea & North Koreans wouldn't be able to see it – you're not supposed to take the title literally. It's obviously not meant for actual North Koreans living in North Korea. It's the dynamic of the video narrative to imagine how life would be if you were placed in such a situation. Most people watching intuitively get this.
    – I didn't get into why China & North Korea are allies. Here's a video explaining it:
    – The fear of being caught in China is so great, that some arm themselves with crushed chilli peppers to throw at guards who may try to stop them. If detained, they may pull out a small knife; not to harm others, but themselves. Sadly, a clean slit to the wrist/throat, or a fatal stab to the stomach often beats getting sent back to North Korea.
    – There are Chinese people in China who feel sympathetic to the NK defectors' plight and end up helping them, risking imprisonment themselves. I hear even some Chinese police officers do this.
    – There are many Christian organizations and pastors who help NK defectors. Raising money so they can afford escape brokers and extra costs for the perilous journey ahead.
    – Russia and North Korea share a border along the tail end of the Tumen River, but defectors rarely cross at this point as it is only 17km long – it's a small stretch of land easily patrolled by border guards.
    – Numerous North Koreans have still made it to Russia, but this was more so in the past and almost always through China, during times when border security was loose.
    – Russia and North Korea are also long-time allies, so even if defectors were to make it to Russia, the likelihood of being deported is high.
    – To the people getting offended when I said North Korea outsources its labor force to several countries around the world including Poland, as well as others I plotted on the map at 10:48, it's public knowledge! (not too hard to look up). People who are particularly sensitive with the Poland inclusion seem to think I'm somehow connecting it to german labor/concentration camps of the past. It's got nothing to do with that. This is not some negative agenda I have towards Poland as some have insinuated. However, it's been noted that North Koreans are employed by 32 companies in Poland under impoverished conditions. Here are 2 such sources:
    – 'Non-elite' North Koreans also may end up bribing border guards and paying escape brokers. It's just not as common. The elite don't have to worry about saving up for it however.
    – NOTE: Damn, this video got demonetized, just like many of my war-related or humanitarian catastrophe videos in the past. It really discourages content creators from doing videos on anything controversial, even the ones that help spread awareness. Maybe I should start a Patreon? Hmm..
    – EDIT: We're finally on PATREON! If you like the ASIANY videos we do & want to support us, you can now be our patron! Check it out @

    *If you feel I have said something inaccurate in the video, CONSTRUCTIVE feedback is always welcome. And if you disagree with someone in the comments section, there's no need to be aggressive or belittling. Let's keep it civilized.

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  2. Imagine what is like to live in hell, there you are north Korea is the aushwitz, but there is still chance to escape, im feeling sad for those people that live there, without any freedom to have a beautiful and not controlled life, some day Kim will sorry a lot for this what he did to his people, but nobody will ever give him mercy, and karma is the worse thing, it waits him in next lifes…

  3. someone sneak this video and a bunch of memes from youtube into NK and try to hack and broadcast to the people. maybe throw in some action movies too

  4. Well I actually escaped North Korea 4 years ago and literally swam my way to South Korea and I live in South Korea…My brother escaped by being in the Navy and escaped with his Navy friends. I’m still a great swimmer to this day 😅

  5. i always envy to other rich country like US, Japan, UK and hope to be born and live there, but after watching this video i deeply say thanks to god from my deepest part of my heart i was born here (indonesia) not at lunatics country such a north korea

  6. Some one some day will make a stand against all evils against all odds and break through this barrier to free this country… some one surely will

  7. I dearly wish to see an American preemptive nuclear strike destroy that country before I die. Nobody will need to escape, just start over under the south. Too bad we gave up the real multi megaton crowdpleasers after the Cold War. One of them could turn Pyongyang in to a cloud 100 times over.

  8. Suicide is the best way to escape North Kore and this entire disgusting evil computer simulated existence.

  9. this is the same thing as the french revolution. all the people have to do is start a rebellion and everything will be ok

  10. Me: Trust me, I've got this. I've been stealthy in video games before. Also me, born in America: watches the video

  11. North Koreans: breathe North Korean Spies and Police: STOP, YOU'VE VIOLATED THE LAW, CONFESS YOUR CRIMES TO OUR GOD KIM JONG UN! South Korea: sorry couldn't hear you, was wearin' some airpods.

  12. It was the same in Bulgaria a long time ago too even tho the people had money, they couldn't leave the country and if they did, they couldn't go back because they would send them to prison or something. Of course, the Bulgarian people had information about the outside world because there was always someone who sneaked in some of Beetles dvd's or something. Also, they were playing Charlie Chaplin's movies because they thought he's a communist too (even tho he wasn't lmao). Bulgaria is "free" since 1989 so it's fine now I guess.

  13. And people complain about Trump. Be grateful that you live in a very prosperous nation where atrocities like those in NK don’t exist.

  14. I would try my best honestly fight for myself and my people because there’s nothing left to live for, I would get killed but at least I know that I died trying. 😪

  15. empires rise and fall north korea's no different. my hope is that it will fall the same way it's comrades the soviet union did.

  16. let's imagine how thing is
    going if chinese government accept the North Korean refugee. there's a certain thing happening that millions of people would escape to China causing severe social problem to china. if u consider this in perceptive of Chinese government. maybe u can understand why China rejects these people

  17. What if you signed up for the army and were disguised so you could just run? ( or you could just dress up)

  18. burn the fields off food, and then piss and shit all over the place. litterly just do that,
    and contaminate the waters
    if you do that. the goverment will be forced no food no water. and callora the black plage will spreed.

  19. Imagine a North Korean Athlete, is about to win a Race, then he realizes, this is my chance to defect, then in front of all the people watching he runs away from the Stadium as fast as possible and defects, that would be so hilarious, and awesome, assuming he has no family back in North Korea!!

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