LONDON – Hyeonseo Lee is one of the best-known defectors from North Korea. And, at only 37, one of the most outspoken about the North Korean regime, now led by Kim Jong Un.
“The North Korean regime really can control people,” she told Fox News, “I think they are the best dictator in the whole planet.”
After fleeing North Korea in 1997 when she was still in her teens and then following difficult years in China, she finally made it to South Korea and the West.
Her book, “The Girl with 7 Names,” referring to the alias’s she used during her escape, is a global best-seller.
Hyeonseo Lee’s book is a global bestseller.
Her “Ted Talk” speech has been viewed online some 13 million times.
She “talks” about “slavery” under the rigid regimes of Kim Jong Un’s father and grandfather.
“We only receive thus much and we don’t have enough,” she explained, “that’s how we automatically became the slave of the regime.”
She witnessed executions, indoctrination, and a famine in the ’90s, which left an estimated million dead and abandoned.
“Because of so many dead bodies, certain people’s job was to get rid of the bodies, with carts,” she recounted.
She was also taught about enemy No. 1, America, she said.
Lee Hyeonseo at the UN security council in 2014. (Hyeonseo Lee)
“We don’t have the word ‘American,’” she said, “It’s only one word: ‘American-Bastard’.”
Fast forward to today and President Trump’s tough talk about North Korea. Hyeonseo said when she first heard Trump speak, she cried.
“Not any president said those words until today,” she said, “even though we’ve been suffering for seven decades.”
The challenge, of course, is delivering on that rhetoric.
She says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a dangerous foe, with his nukes and missiles and repression.
Hyeonseo Lee has been critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un since she defected from her home country. (Reuters)
The killing this year of his half-brother in Malaysia was a warning. She told Fox News if the regime wanted to act against her, “they could do something.”
Still, she holds on to a dream that one day the regime will fall and she will be able to return home.
“I strongly believe it,” she said with a determined smile.
Greg Palkot currently serves as a London-based senior foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 1998 as a correspondent. Follow him on Twitter@GregPalkot.