One of the most interesting phenomenons about North Korea isn't the extraordinary lengths that some citizens make to escape the country — it's the extraordinary lengths a minority of refugees make to get back into the country.
While this seems to largely be an issue about the difficulty of integration into South Korean culture, it does also beg the uneasy question — are some elements of life in the closed, potentially violent and economically unstable North really better than life in the South?
As part of their series "Ask a North Korean", NK News asked North Korean Jae-young about the good things about life in the hermit state, and the recent refugee is easily able to find something to miss. Jay-young says that her life in North Korea was "mentally rich – even if it was materially insufficient" and that affection between neighbors was "very pure and deep".
She writes about the joyful side of life in North Korea:
On major holidays, we invited our neighbors (we used to call my mother’s friends “aunt”), shared food and stories with them. My mom was really good at making ‘Jong-Pyun rice cake’ and I can still remember my aunts exclaiming how good they tasted. During nights, we gathered together, turned music on and danced. On days when electricity went out, we used to play the accordion, sing, dance and have fun. I used to have so much fun and danced so hard that my socks had holes when I checked them in morning. My father used to be respected as a gagman (comedian).
Jay-young goes on to write about the free education and healthcare, but admits that many of the supposedly free services were not free in practice. She concludes, "Everything was suffocating and pitiful in North Korea, but it is a country that I have many positive memories from".
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