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Latest update : 2018-03-09

Exclusive report: Escaping North Korea

As Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump surprise the world by agreeing to a historic meeting, we met with North Koreans who have fled the Pyongyang regime. Every year, hundreds of them risk their lives by fleeing the dictatorship. For more than a year, we followed two young women on their voyage to South Korea. They passed through China, then Laos, before finally reaching the safety of the South. FRANCE 24 brings you the story of their risky journey to freedom.

Every year, hundreds of North Koreans risk their lives in a bid to reach China. In the far north on the Chinese border, those who aspire to freedom must attempt to swim through the freezing waters of the Yalu and Tumen rivers to reach the other side. But the few North Koreans who do manage to reach China are soon disappointed.

We followed 23-year-old Mina and 25-year-old Sung Hee for over a year. On arrival in China, they were sold by traffickers and forced into marriage with Chinese peasants. After several years of a miserable existence in a rural province, the two young women decided to flee to South Korea.

>> Reporters: Millions of single Chinese men desperately seeking a wife

We meet them in Beijing, where they are chaperoned by Kim, another North Korean refugee, who fled the Pyongyang regime in 1999. A South Korean NGO provides them with fake ID documents.

The young women embark on a 4,000 kilometre-long journey by train, bus, car and on foot. The long road to South Korea involves travelling across China to reach Laos, south of the border. Throughout the risky voyage, lasting several days, the two fugitives are terrified they won’t make it to safety.

By Brando BARANZELLI , Olivier PONTHUS , Vincent REYNAUD

Archives

2018-07-13 Africa

Central African Republic: The way of the warlord

In the war-torn Central African Republic, former rebels who mounted a coup in 2013 are now dreaming of independence. FRANCE 24’s reporters James André and Anthony Fouchard went...

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2018-04-27 France

Video: The Foreign Legion, another French exception

Shrouded in mystery and prestige, the French Foreign Legion is just as feared by its enemies as it is envied by its allies. The legionnaires come from across the world, prepared...

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2018-07-06 Africa

Djibouti's khat, an expensive habit

In the small east African nation of Djibouti, almost half of all men use khat as a stimulant. Chewing khat leaves produces similar effects to amphetamine use. Some 40% of the...

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2018-06-29 Americas

Video: Inside Nicaragua’s rebel stronghold of Masaya

More than 200 people have been killed in the unprecedented wave of unrest sweeping Nicaragua in recent months. In mid-April, plans for social security reform sparked protests and...

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2018-06-22 Europe

Video: Turkey tracks down the opposition, beyond its borders

Ahead of Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, our reporter went to meet members of the Turkish opposition, who have received little airtime in the...

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