February 25, 2024

From North Korea to New Malden

Tom Marsden takes you on a journey in search of the North Koreans of New Malden

In a small, abandoned building located next to the Korea Foods store in New Malden, I climb the dirty staircase infused with the smell of pickled Korean salads coming from the canteen downstairs. I knock on a door with a sign saying “North Korea Residents Society” and a small man wearing a beige shirt, grey trousers and a smart brown corduroy jacket opens the door.

Kim Joo Il is softly spoken and has a gentle face which makes him look much younger than his 40 years, but there is a steeliness in his behavior that gives some indication as to how he managed to reach the rank of Captain in the Korea People’s Army before defecting across the border to China in 2005 and then arriving in the UK two years later.