From Across the Sea

Student Moves from North Korea

The landscape of Rajin, North Korea sits peacefully. This is the view junior Sarah Kim grew up seeing.

Kylie Hester, Co-Editor-in-Chief

North Korea. When the average American hears those two words, their first thoughts are of war, lack of freedoms, propaganda, and starvation. While some of these may be accurate depictions, there are also misconceptions surrounding the lives of the people who live there. 

Junior Sarah Kim moved from North Korea to the United States last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was raised in North Korea as a child and has a first-person view of what life is like there.


The sun sets over the mountain of Rajin, North Korea. “The views were beautiful,” Kim said. (Sarah Kim)

“I grew up there my whole life,” Kim said. “We lived in the mountains in a village. It was a 30 minute drive from the city of Rajin.”

Kim was born in California, but moved to North Korea as a baby. A person can enter or leave North Korea if they have been invited inside or if they have a North Korean green card. The main exception, however, is for South Koreans, who aren’t allowed in at all. The Kim family got in with green cards because of their multiple businesses and American citizenship.

“It’s difficult to specifically pinpoint what I enjoyed about my life there because it was (is) my home,” Kim said. “I do have to say that one of my favorite things to do was going to the public market and meeting the ladies selling their products and enjoying the food that they’ll give you for free.”

Kim’s father had a strong desire to live among the North Korean people as a Christian in order to show them the reality of Christian life. However, he was careful to follow the restrictive laws set by the government and didn’t preach or talk about Christianity to citizens. He did, though, worship in his own home with his family.

Citizens partake in North Korean style barbecue. (Sarah Kim)

“Christianity is the biggest religion in the world,” Kim said. “But it’s also the main religion that turns people away from Communism. It goes against [the North Korean government’s] world view that religion is an opiate for the masses. [The local people] are not allowed to have any religion.”

 Despite the country’s atheism, foreigners are allowed to hold congregations and worship on Sundays if they are Christian. North Korean citizens cannot participate in any worship, but Kim’s family chose to simply let them see the truth of Christianity through their daily lives and actions towards others.

“We’re allowed to do things that people do not expect us to be able to do,” Kim said. “We can’t just be like ‘by the way, God loves you’, and stuff like that.”

Since the North Korean government did not allow foreigners to study in local schools, Kim had to be homeschooled.

“My mom wanted us to go to the schools because she had never done homeschooling before,” Kim said. “It was difficult for her, but we couldn’t [go], so we just had to do the homeschooling.”

The North Korean government controls all media and information that is shared with its citizens, and there is no internet in the country. Citizens are uncomfortable talking about politics.

“The city people have more exposure to outside information,” Kim said. “You can tell that they want to visit other countries, but they can’t verbally say ‘oh I want to visit other countries’ because that’s a no. But those who live in rural areas don’t have that exposure; so they usually don’t know any different.”

Photo by Alex_Berlin on Pixabay