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Defiance and Hope in the World’s Most Repressive Country By Mike Kim

The first of its kind, this book provides a rare and unique inside look into the hidden world of ordinary North Koreans. Mike Kim, who worked with refugees on the Chinese border for four years, recounts their experiences of enduring famine, sex-trafficking, and torture, as well as the inspirational stories of those who overcame tremendous adversity to escape the repressive regime of their homeland and make new lives. 

In ESCAPING NORTH KOREA, One of the few Americans granted entry into the secretive “Hermit Kingdom,” Kim came to know the isolated country and its people intimately. His North Korean friends entrusted their secrets to him as they revealed the government’s brainwashing tactics and confessed their true thoughts about the repressive regime that so rigidly controls their lives. Civilians and soldiers alike spoke of what North Koreans think of Americans and war with America. Children remembered the suffering they endured through the famine. Women and girls recalled their horrific sex-trafficking experiences. Former political prisoners shared their memories of beatings, torture, and executions in the gulags. 

With the permission of these courageous individuals, Kim now shares their stories and recounts his dramatic experiences leading North Koreans to asylum through the 6,000-mile modern-day underground railway through Asia. His unflinching narrative exposes the truth about North Korea, stripping away the last veils that still shroud this brutal dictatorship.

Escaping North Korea is currently being developed into a movie with the book-to-film project represented by the Hollywood Agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA).


Photo: Kenny Kim (

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Kim is an author, consultant, NGO founder, and North Korea specialist based in Washington DC. He is the author of the Wall Street Journal featured book "Escaping North Korea", a current events memoir about his experiences at the China-North Korea border helping North Koreans escape the regime. On New Year's Day 2003, Mike gave up his financial planning business in Chicago, Illinois and left for China on a one-way ticket carrying little more than two duffle bags. While living near the North Korean border, he operated undercover as a student of North Korean taekwondo, training and competing under two famous North Korean masters from Pyongyang—eventually receiving a second-degree blackbelt.

During his time in China, he learned of the hundreds of thousands of North Koreans fleeing to China through a 6,000-mile modern-day underground railroad, which runs from Pyongyang to Bangkok, in search of food and freedom. He founded Crossing Borders, a nonprofit dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to North Korean refugees which has testified at a US congressional hearing and has been a long time contributor of the State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report. Mike frequently appears in the media: He has appeared on CNN Anderson Cooper 360 and it was after his interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart that there was interest from Hollywood in turning Escaping North Korea into a motion picture. A team of producers and writers are currently developing the script, with the book-to-film project represented by William Morris Endeavor.

Mike lectures to audiences worldwide about his experiences at the China-North Korea border and has now shared his stories of inspiration, courage, and hope on five continents. Mike resides in Washington DC where he is a consultant and term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.



The power of ‘Escaping North Korea’ stems from the stories Mr. Kim tells. During his four years in China, he met hundreds of escapees from the North. He reconstructs their tales -- of the privations of daily existence in North Korea, of life on the lam in China -- in heartbreaking detail… There are many heroes in Mr. Kim's book, not least the author himself.” —The Wall Street Journal 

“His intrepid effort to help four North Korean teenagers avoid arrest and repatriation on the journey from northern China to the British consulate in Shanghai is riveting, as is his insider knowledge of the perilous route refugees navigate across the borders of China, Laos and Thailand.” —Publishers Weekly

"[A] fascinating account of [Mike Kim's] efforts to smuggle North Korean defectors to freedom in the South." —New York Review of Books