North Korean defectors parade themselves on South Korean talent show
NORTH Korean women who fled from their communist homeland appear on a South Korean TV show in the hope of bringing the divided nations closer together.
Less than a decade ago, Han Seo-hee was a member of an elite, secret performance unit for Kim Jong-il, the late leader of North Korea.
Now she is one of roughly a dozen North Korean women who fled their homeland and appear regularly on a weekly show that hopes to bring the two nations closer together by showing what North Koreans are really thinking about.
Now on My Way to Meet You, a hybrid talk and talent show, has grown increasingly popular over the last few months thanks to its mix of humour and tears, mingling serious discussions such as how the women escaped with lighter fare such as talk about which men make the best husbands.
"I still feel uncomfortable when I have to make people laugh, or perform. I am still wedded to North Korea's stiff style," said the 30-year-old Han, who for four years from 2002 played a stringed instrument as part of Kim Jong-il's troupe.
The show features some the women singing and dancing too, whilst others perform comedy sketches, including several who mimic North Korea's iconic, stern-faced female TV newsreader.
he emotional public response has taken them by surprise. One defector, Shin Eun-ha, 25, even has her own fan club.
"I have had a hard life so far, so honestly I have never imagined I would have this experience. However, I'm on TV like this and have my fanclub. Still it is a surprise and I don't know how I am supposed to act. On the other hand, I want to do better in the show and have more fans," she said.
The show's producer says that not only does it show off little-known aspects of life in the North, it helps connect average North and South Koreans, many of whom find it difficult to bridge social and cultural gaps.
Though more than 23,000 North Koreans have made their way south since the 1990s, they find it hard to settle in, ending up in menial jobs and often shunned by their southern brethren.