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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.

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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.

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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.

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