Ask a North Korean: Introducing Mina, a soldier turned student

Meet one of the new authors of our ongoing “Ask a North Korean” feature
September 10th, 2013

Welcome back to the NK News feature, “Ask a North Korean!”

After a brief hiatus our feature that gives readers an opportunity to send in questions to North Koreans is back, with two new writers.

Mina is a female who left the north-east of North Korea in 2010 and Ji Min is a male who left Pyongyang in 2006.

Together, we hope their two perspectives will help shed light on day-to-day life in North Korea. We re-start the feature today with introductions from our new writers to get you acquainted with their background. Mina kicks off…

Introducing Mina

Hello, everyone. My name is Mina Yoon, and I am one of two new writers for the Ask a North Korean column. I am glad I can share interesting stories about North Korea with you, although we are far apart across the Pacific.

To tell you about myself briefly, I took part in military service right after I graduated from high school. You might wonder why on earth a 17-year-old girl would volunteer to enter the military. There was one clear reason for that: My father was a military officer who had a strong desire to send all of his kids to the military. I myself was a proud soldier who believed that protecting my motherland with a gun on my shoulder must be the most honorable and valuable mission. However, later, when my mother left North Korea, my life entered a completely new phase and this belief was challenged. In hindsight, I believe my courageous decision to get away from North Korea has made me the person I am today: happier and freer than ever.

It has been almost three years since I escaped. I still have some family in North Korea. After I came to South Korea, I entered into a college and, nowadays, I study a wide variety of subjects such as politics, sociology, economics and public administration. I believe my academic knowledge, along with my precious experiences in North Korea, will be a great resource to help liberate my loved ones in North Korea and bring about the future of reunified Korea closer. I am thankful for new opportunities in South Korea, and every day I try to do my best to fulfill my dream. It feels amazing to have a dream and grow closer to it step by step.

However, I am not always fully tied up with study. I have many hobbies such as biking, calligraphy, cooking and reading. I am very interested in politics, various social issues, literature and vocal music, too. Calligraphy and vocal music are things that I have especially wanted to be tutored in since when I was very young. I plan to get formal training someday when I get a chance.

You have to understand that the stories I’ll tell you will reflect only part of North Korean society. My environment and my experiences in North Korea might be only one of many dimensions of life in North Korea. In North Korea, travel is restricted, and because there’s no broad communication channel like the Internet allowed, people do not really know how other people’s lives in other towns are like. However, I’ll do my very best to answer all of your questions based on my knowledge and perspectives I have gained through my dynamic life experiences in North Korea, hovering between different social classes. I hope to get a lot of support from you. Thank you very much.

Got a question for Mina? Email it to [email protected] with your name and city. We’ll be publishing the best ones.

Editing and translation by Ashley Cho

Artwork by Catherine Salkeld


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About the Author

Adam Stulberg

Adam Stulberg is Associate Professor and Co-Director, Center for International Strategy, technology, and Policy in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on international security, Eurasian politics and security affairs, nuclear (non)proliferation, and energy and international security, as well as inter-disciplinary courses on science, technology, and international security policy. His current research focuses on energy security dilemmas and statecraft in Eurasia, new approaches to strategic stability and denuclearization of military arsenals, internationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle, counter-network warfare, and the implications of nanotechnology for international security. Dr. Stulberg earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), as well as holds an M.A. in International Affairs from Columbia University, an M.A. in Political Science from UCLA, and a B.A. in History from the University of Michigan. He served as a Political Consultant at RAND from 1987-1997, and as a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), Monterey Institute of International Studies (1997-1998). He has worked closely with Senator Sam Nunn drafting policy recommendations and background studies on future directions for the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, building regional and energy security regimes in Central Asia and the South Caucasus, and engaging Russia’s regional power centers. Dr. Stulberg was a post-doctoral fellow at CNS (2000-2001); policy scholar at the EastWest Institute; and has been a consultant to the Carnegie Corporation of New York (2000-present) and the Office of Net Assessment, Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense (2000-present). Dr. Stulberg has authored and edited three books, and has published widely in leading academic and policy journals.