Female defectors reflect on their journey: ‘Ryeohaeng’ shares the struggles many endure to leave North Korea

Korea JoongAng Daily
“Ryeohaeng,” the North Korean word for “travel” and also the title of director Im Heung-soon’s film, tells the stories of 10 female North Korean defectors and their struggles to adapt to society in South Korea.

Director Im won the Silver Lion Award at the 56th Venice Bienale for his 2014 film “Factory Complex” (2014), which tells the tales of working class women. For his latest film, he shifted his attention to North Korean defectors, particularly women, and had them act out their experiences on screen.
“I wanted to show the raw reality that people forget about or neglect. People might feel uncomfortable, but I think it’s a need-to-know part of our society,” said Im during an interview with the press after the press screening at Daehan Cinema in central Seoul. “If commercial films about North Korea are meant to be entertaining, I believe films like mine shape people’s perspectives [and help them] face the truth. Sometimes it might be painful, but I think it’s really important that people also feel that emotion.”
The Korea JoongAng Daily had the chance to interview two of the women who appear in the film, as well as the director, in order to learn more about each of their individual stories and the director’s intentions behind the scenes.

Kim Bok-ju, 41, is currently a singer and an actor who defected from North Korea in 2007. Han Young-ran, 52, was the victim of human trafficking and was sold to a broker in China in 1999. She intended to stay in China for only a month to earn some money because she had a young son to take care of. While she was desperately searching for news about her son in China, she learned that he had died. A month turned to 10 years in China before she defected to South Korea in 2009.

The following are edited excerpts from the intervirew.
August 6, 2019
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