52 Inspiring Quotes of Lee Hyeon-seo

” Breathing in South Korea, even though the life here is not easy, makes me so happy. I feel that sitting in a coffee shop, having a cup of tea, and looking out of the window at the blue sky – this is happiness. Truly happiness. “
” Many people – when they think about North Korea and the dictatorship, or the military or nuclear weapons, nuclear missiles, those things – tend to forget ordinary citizens are living there. “
” We were all blocked from western media, outside information. We were captured in a virtual prison cell. People would disappear in the middle of the night – not every day, but sometimes. We hear about it, and we never knew what happened inside the prison camps. I learned about them after I escaped. “
” My favourite place in South Korea is Jeju Island: it’s a tropical paradise with sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and the magnificent Geomunoreum lava tube system of underground caves. “
” Because North Korea was so totally cut off, we didn’t hear anything of the outside world. We had only one TV channel, which showed only propaganda, and we believed everything. “
” It was really tiring always pretending to be someone else. Not my life, not my real name, nothing. “
” Like every country, North Korea has some very smart people. They could be contributing a lot more to science and other areas, but North Koreans are forced to spend so much time memorising the fake history of our dictators and other propaganda, so are at a huge disadvantage. “
” North Korea is not the dictator’s country; it’s 25 million citizens’ country, and they are suffering under the dictator. North Koreans are really nice, kind, pure people. I hate the dictator and the regime, but I love my home country. “
” I lived near the border with China, and one night, I simply left home and walked across the iced-over river that separated the two countries. I was fortunate that my family had close relationships with some of the border guards, so I was able to cross without incident. “
” I don’t think the North Korean leadership is interested in a genuine deal to end their WMD programs or their stranglehold on the North Korean people. “
” Due to hate, fear, and oppression, the North Koreans cannot help themselves. “
” In communism, we never had any freedom – of movement, of speech, of press. We didn’t even make own decisions for our lives, our future. We were human robots. “
” Certainly in North Korea, man is always superior to woman. Even the government treats women horribly. What is the slogan? Woman is a flower. “
” No dictator can last forever. History shows that in the end, people around the dictator bring about change. Of course, a lot of high-ranking officials don’t want change because they want to keep power. But there are other good people who want change. I believe they are waiting for the chance. “
” Inside North Korea, we have many informants and spies watching everyone; they’re paid by the government. Even a husband and wife can’t trust each other. “
” Some people criticize North Koreans and ask, ‘Are they stupid? How can they believe those ridiculous things?’ But I say, It doesn’t matter if you’re smart: if you were born in North Korea, you would be exactly like us. We don’t know what freedom is. We have never enjoyed it. “
” Leaving North Korea is not like leaving any other country. It is more like leaving another universe. “
” On a bus ride through China, my family and I had talked for hours before a police officer boarded to conduct an inspection. My mother and brother couldn’t speak Chinese, so they pretended to be deaf and mute, and none of the Chinese passengers said anything, sparing us. “
” When I was little, I thought my country was the best on the planet. And I grew up singing a song called ‘Nothing To Envy.’ And I was very proud. In school, we spent a lot of time studying the history of Kim Il-Sung, but we never learned much about the outside world, except that America, South Korea, Japan are the enemies. “
” People who live in North Korea, they die for food, but living in the free world, the cat even eats expensive sushi. “
” When I was young, I thought Kim il-Sung or Kim Jong-il is hero. “
” I just wanted to see China with my own eyes. I wanted to see whether North Korea was the best country in the world or China was the best. I grew up believing that China was much worse than North Kore, because that’s what the regime told us. “
” When I explain to people what was the situation in North Korea, they think, how can such a country exist? They know North Korea is bad in some vague way, not clearly. But when we explain it, they then wonder how can a whole country be modern-day slaves? “
” My favourite Korean food is delicious black five-layered pork belly, cooked over a charcoal grill. And Jeju chocolate, in citrus fruits and green tea flavour, which is famous throughout Korea. “
” Most people in the country didn’t – and might still not – know about how powerful the United States is. They think North Korean weapons are the best in the world, and they’re very proud of them. They believe they can protect the country from anyone. “
” The TED talk I gave, that gave me another character I didn’t know about. I’m not saying the mind of a hero, but a kind of responsibility. Every word I’m speaking, it’s not from myself. I’m speaking for and representing the people of communist North Korea. “
” My family lived under communism their entire lives. When they arrived in South Korea, they didn’t even know how to use the bank system and ATM or the subway, nothing. “
” In North Korea, we learnt all Americans are the enemy; they are not human. “
” My favourite Korean food is delicious black five-layered pork belly, cooked over a charcoal grill. And Jeju chocolate, in citrus fruits and green tea flavour, which is famous throughout Korea. “
” I just wanted to see China with my own eyes. I wanted to see whether North Korea was the best country in the world or China was the best. I grew up believing that China was much worse than North Kore, because that’s what the regime told us. “
” When I explain to people what was the situation in North Korea, they think, how can such a country exist? They know North Korea is bad in some vague way, not clearly. But when we explain it, they then wonder how can a whole country be modern-day slaves? “
” I know North Korea is the most ridiculous country in the world, but for me, my mum, my brother, and my families and old memories are so important. “
” Keeping families and friends divided is unforgivable. “
” This is a divisive issue, but I really hope for unification. Even though we have been divided for a long time, we are all Koreans, so we should live together in a united Korea. “
” From the moment I was born, I was fed propaganda. I viewed the Kim dynasty not only as our fearless protectors from the imperialist forces, but also as gods. “
” Here in South Korea, I’m continuing to learn English in order to boost my prospects. When North Korean defectors try to get a job to stabilize their lives, their lack of English is a handicap. It was the same story while I was living in China. It took an enormous amount of time and enthusiasm to learn Chinese. “
” I was growing up in Hyesan, right by the closest North Korea-China border. China was just across the river: you could see across. So I was curious. On the river, on both sides, you have houses, then mountains. I wanted to know what was on the other side of the Chinese mountains. “
” The moment I escaped to China, I didn’t have any money; I only had one address in my hand of some long-distance Chinese relatives. I didn’t know China was that big. I thought I can find their home very easily, and I would come back one week later. But then I found out the address was a 10-hour drive away. “
” North Korean defectors who speak out against the regime always feel nervous. We never know what the North Korean government is planning. It’s really difficult for us to show our faces and speak out, but we feel obligated to do something to inform people about the ongoing tragedy inside North Korea. “
” A huge famine hit North Korea in the mid-1990s. Ultimately, more than a million North Koreans died during the famine, and many only survived by eating grass, bugs, and tree bark. “
” In China, it was hard living as a young girl without my family. I had no idea what life was going to be like as a North Korean refugee. But I soon learned it’s not only extremely difficult, it’s also very dangerous, since North Korean refugees are considered in China as illegal migrants. “
” I’ve been so lucky, received so much help and inspiration in my life, so I want to help give aspiring North Koreans a chance to prosper with international support. “
” I don’t hate the Chinese. We’re brothers, and we share a border. I just hate the government, politicians, policies, not the people. “
” Many Chinese criticize me not only on Baidu but on Facebook. Some say, do you think Chinese authorities were stupid enough not to realize you were a North Korean defector? If they read my book, they’d understand. I did my best to escape. I think it’s all a miracle. It’s not because Chinese policemen were stupid enough to believe my fake story. “
” We refugees, we become always a punchbag. A political punchbag between China and South Korea and North Korea. “
” In North Koreans, the moment we are born, we don’t know there’s another life existing outside of our country. The regime always told us all the bad things about the outside world, describing America as full of thieves, all human scum, beggars, everyday people dying on the streets and hospitals. “
” Hyesan people have money, the most after those in Pyongyang, because it’s near the border with China. Illegal smuggling businesses and Chinese trading companies operate there, so people can access outside products. “
” When I was growing up, my mum was doing illegal smuggling with China. Sometimes she would see a fortune teller for advice. One time I went with her: ‘In your future, you’ll be living in foreign country and eating the foreign country rice,’ she said. “
” When I was 14, during Kim Il-sung’s funeral, I wondered, ‘How could a god die?’ “
” Living in China, I found out that the bright new world was not for me, not for defectors. My life in North Korea had been OK; suddenly, in China, I had to feed myself and earn money. Worst of all, North Korean defectors are hunted by the government. “
” Kindness towards strangers is rare in North Korea. There is a risk to helping others. The state made accusers and informers of us all. “
” Hyeon means sunshine. Seo means good fortune. I chose it so that I would live my life in light and warmth and not return to the shadow. “