WorldViews: ‘The other side of North Korea’: A defected smuggler’s extraordinary story

By Max Fisher, December 5, 2013

Seongmin was 12 years old when he started smuggling goods in from China. It was the late 1990s, a time when North Korean border communities like his were beginning to change rapidly and in ways we are still trying to understand. The famine that had killed hundreds of thousands of Seongmin's countrymen was finally winding down, thanks in part to new black markets that provided food where the state could not. The government had either become too weak to stop the smugglers or, perhaps fearing more starvation if they re-sealed the border, simply turned a blind eye.

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