North Korea is perhaps the most isolated nation on Earth, with few people allowed to leave and everything controlled by a dynastic ruling family apparently more focused on building nuclear weapons than assuring food security for the nation's population. BBC News spoke with four people who escaped North Korea to find out what life there was like, what they miss (friends and food, mostly), and what parts of the world they were able to view before breaking free.
"From a very early age we were brainwashed to believe Americans are Yankee wolves," one woman said. "I used to think all Americans were dangerous, yellow-eyed, and devilish." "I would imagine American and South Korean men would have this thick chest hair wrapping all around them," another women said, laughing. Less funny was the belief instilled in citizens that they would die and the country would collapse when the godlike leaders died, or the weekly "Regular Critique," where you were forced to reflect on your wrongs and report those of people you knew. You can watch and learn more below. Peter Weber
On Friday, North Korea's Supreme Court found U.S. citizen Kim Dong Chul guilty of espionage and subversion, and sentenced the 62-year-old businessman to 10 years with hard labor. Kim is the second American sentenced to hard labor recently, after 21-year-old tourist Otto Warmer was given 15 years for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. The brief trial was conducted a week before North Korea's ruling party holds its first congress in 36 years.
Kim was arrested in October. Last month, he confessed before North Korean media to having collaborated with South Korean intelligence to bring down North Korea's leadership — which National Intelligence Service says is untrue — and trying to spread religion in the country. Previous North Korean prisoners have said their confessions were coerced. Peter Weber