When South Korea does not live up to its soap operas, a few North Korean defectors go back.

Posted: 14 Aug 2010

Asia Times, 13 August 2010, Andrei Lankov: "It is well known that some 20,000 North Korean refugees currently reside in South Korea. However, ... an estimated 200 of them are not here any more. Surprisingly, they have moved back to the North. ... [One] group of returnees are those refugees who were disappointed with life in South Korea. Most of the North Koreans went South with great and often inflated expectations, but soon they discovered the life they had to lead was far less glamorous than the life they saw in smuggled copies of South Korean TV dramas. ... [The returnees] are often used for propaganda, telling horror stories about life in the capitalist hell down south. Professional propaganda mongers help them to prepare such stories in which the personal experiences of the returnees (bitter, to be sure) are liberally mixed with necessary inventions." -- Keep in mind, this is only 200 out of 20,000.

New York Times, 11 August 2010, Michael Z. Wise: An exhibition at Vienna's Museum of Applied Art "encompasses more than 100 oil paintings and watercolors from North Korea’s national museum, known as the Korean Art Gallery Pyongyang, as well as architectural drawings and models. This is the first time that secretive totalitarian state has sent a large number of its artworks outside its sealed borders. ... Dutiful farmers, steelworkers, street sweepers and seamstresses all beam with joy; well-nourished children laugh in dazzling sunlight. 'We Are the Happiest Children in the World' is one surreal title. An image from 2000 — just after the peak years of a famine estimated to have cost three million lives — depicts the portly dictator Kim Jong-il lifting the lid off a steaming pot in a kitchen laden with succulent meats and fruits as two white-toqued chefs and an army officer stand by. 'The Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il Deeply Concerned Over the Soldiers’ Diet,' reads the caption. ... 'However much we may think of it as a joke or odd,' [Jane Portal of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts] said, 'we’ve seen it all before in terms of communist and totalitarian societies — from the Soviet Union to the Nazis to China. This is the last remnant of that, the last bastion of this kind of thinking that’s bound to disappear. That’s why it’s so important for it to be seen and collected for posterity.'"

The Observer, 15 August 2010, Imogen Carter, reviewing Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea: "Jun-sang's gnawing feeling that North Korea was a corrupt regime was confirmed when he began illegally watching South Korean TV; it was, he says, 'like looking in the mirror for the first time and realising you were unattractive'."

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