The Current

Hyeonseo Lee shares her perilous escape from North Korea

She's the girl with seven names and the name she was born with she refuses to reveal even today. Because Hyeonseo Lee is North Korean and she defected: a crime the regime would punish not just her for, but those connected to her. Hyeonseo shares her story.
Hyeonseo Lee says defecting from North Korea is as much an escape from the mentality of North Korea as it is a physical escape. She feels the secrets and paranoia of life in North Korea stick hard in one's mind. (
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. - North Korean defectorHyeonseoLee

​Hyeonseo Lee grew up believing she lived in the greatest country on earth. It was a common belief in North Korea. And her childhood there was a fairly typical one.

She watched her first execution when she was seven years old. She helped dig tunnels in case of a nuclear attack. And she denounced her own friends for their anti-government transgressions.

But everything changed when Hyeonseo Lee was 17 years old. She escaped from North Korea, and began learning how to see the world anew.

It's a process she's still coming to terms with today... and one she describes in her new memoir, "The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector's Story." 

Hyeonseo Lee was in our Toronto studio.

This segment was produced by The Current Marc Apollonio and Pacinthe Mattar.


♦ North Korean defector lifts lid on world's most secret state - Reuters
♦ Hyeonseo Lee: Escape, exile & why she misses North Korea - Macleans