Searching for North Korean Refugees

Photo by Eli Imadali

By Sam Weber / Graduate Student Reporter

This semester in International Reporting has been a little bit different for me. In the past, things like term papers, exams and presentations have dictated my schedules. Now, I’m just trying to find North Korean refugees, which is approximately ten times more difficult than I anticipated. My partners, Eli and Mikensi, and I have spent three months sending out endless strings of emails to every organization associated with North Korean defectors that we can possibly find on the internet. Sometimes, it feels like a Sisyphean struggle. Other days, we cautiously think this just might work. It keeps me up at night. I daydream about interviewing refugees. It’s getting weird.

This week, we finally caught a break. In a fit of desperation, I shot out emails to eight organizations over the weekend and actually got two responses (a pretty decent batting average in international reporting). One man has set up an interview for us with a woman who defected from North Korea and started a human rights advocacy organization in Seoul. Her mother, who was repatriated twice before successfully landing in Seoul, is willing to meet with us, too. AND they’re fine with being in photos and videos. I don’t know if anyone not in journalism would understand how thrilling those emails were.

But if it gives you an idea of how we felt, we immediately watched DJ Khaled’s music video for the hit single “All I Do is Win.”