A representative of the South Korean government confirmed the story. The architect, who asked the South Korean Embassy in Cairo for help on 8 October, arrived in South Korea today. His choice underscores the fact that despite being the victim of one of the most despotic regimes in the world, a Korean’s nationalism is so strong that even after fleeing he will not go very far from home.
The defector, known as Kim for security reasons, was sent to Egypt in 2006 by the North Korean government. In the North African nation, he began planning and building homes and offices for members of the North Korean elite living in the region.
Forced to repatriate his earnings to avoid retaliation against his family, he lived in poverty. Everything changed when he fell in love with an Egyptian woman and decided not to go back.
Once the North Korean Embassy in Cairo realised that he had defected, it sought him out everywhere.
In hiding with his companion, the architect crossed the border with the initial goal of “disappearing in Africa. However, a Korean would be easily recognised there. We thought of living near the desert, which we did until unrest broke out,” unrest that eventually came to be known as the Arab spring, something that the architect’s companion closely followed.
As the two watched what was happening in the streets of Middle Eastern cities, he came to grasp his situation. “Mubarak’s fall made me understand many things. How absurd the regime in Pyongyang is, where man and his dignity mean nothing, where he does not exist. I realised that by hiding I could be saved but things would not get better. For this reason, I decided to come back, ask for help and give people like me a hand.”