North Korean escape scenario

You’re an average North Korean who one day has suddenly encountered a golden opportunity to flee the country.
Assume the following conditions apply:

  1. If you flee, your escape will be successful. You will not be caught.
  2. You can only flee by yourself. You cannot bring anyone with you.
  3. This is your only chance. There will never be a second chance to escape.
  4. You will be granted asylum, refugee care and eventual citizenship in Japan, South Korea or some other highly prosperous country. Nobody can assassinate you.
    5. When (not if) the North Korean authorities find that you fled, they will put your family in a labor camp for the rest of their lives.
    Do you?

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. I’d have to stay put.

Probably not. Unless I thought I or someone in my family was about to be brought up for political crimes which means they/we would all go to prison anyway.

Also, I probably don’t have any real idea of the actual conditions in that other prosperous country compared to my current conditions. I may only be aware that I would have enough to eat and a job that pays a living wage (for example) not that, in comparison, it would be heaven on earth.

Not to say I would sacrifice my family in any case, but even less likely if I don’t have that information.

Nope. Wouldn’t even consider it.

I read an awful book about a NK defector that faced this very dilemma. He didn’t think twice. He explained that the very concept of ‘Love’ was alien to him. Family members were viewed as competition for food.

The scariest thing about the OP is there are real people who have faced that actual choice.

Is it Escape from Camp 14?

Not sure yet. I am fleeing either because I am well off for a North Korean but I have access to information and I know what shithole the place is, or because I and my family are already starving to death. So if it’s the latter I’m not sure what the answer is.

He escaped when everyone was already in a prison camp, right?

That’s one scenario when I might go ahead and escape without the others. While conditions can always be made worse, it seems like going from civilian life to a prison camp is a worse change than going from bad to worse within a camp.

I also might argue that escaping from the camp might enable me to help my family better by mobilizing international forces to help… but I’m not sure whether that opinion would be available to me if I were an actual NK citizen.

Yup. Escape from Camp 14.

Also Read The Girl With Seven Names.

And a bunch of other books about NK.

NO WAY IN HELL would I leave my family to face condition #5 in the OP. No. Way.

But that’s because I am not like the guy born in Camp 14. I don’t doubt that family is a pretty meaningless word in such a situation.

Just how different is ordinary peasant life in North Korea from a prison camp, anyway?

Well… non-prison peasants get beds to sleep in instead of bare concrete. They’re allowed to wear gloves in winter. They have sources of protein other than whatever rats and insects they can catch. Spouses are allowed to have sex when they want instead of when the camps guards allow them to be in the same room together. Little things like that.

Really, NK prison camps are like someone read 1984 and similar books and thought hey, there are a lot of good ideas there but they don’t go far enough.

It’s worth noting that while still as politically repressive, economically a lot has changed in North Korea.

The famine of the 1990s was triggered by the collapse of the Soviet Union-- food is now more abundant and starvation conditions are not normal. Private economic activity has been quietly tolerated for some time, leading to a small but existent middle class. Paired with the rise of China, ready access to cheap Chinese goods, and improved internal manufacturing, people have some access to consumer goods. About 1/3 of North Koreans now have cell phones.

Still a terrible place with no freedom. But it’s not actually stuck in an eternal time warp.

Statistically, there is a greater likelihood in the USA than in North Korea that a person will sleep tonight incarcerated in a prison of some kind. Even by the most liberal of estimates of North Korea’s imprisoned population, which is not known with any accuracy.

It’s that family thing that makes me stay put. Some I would like to see in a Labor and Re-Education Camp but some of them I really love and need around me.

Even if true, that is a meaningless stat. in N. Korea people who find themselves an enemy of the State are often dealt with in a more economical method - they mysteriously “disappear”. Helps keep the incarceration rate down.

I would call the incarceration rate in North Korea nearly 0. There are probably more people in my town who are free to leave at any time than there are in all of North Korea.

Absolutely not. I’d tough it out with my family.

Don’t you mean nearly 100%