Joseph Kim

North Korean refugee
Joseph Kim escaped alone from North Korea at the age of 16, first to China and then to the United States.

Why you should listen

Joseph Kim is from the northern region of North Korea. Growing up during the great famine of the 1990s, at the age of 12 Joseph saw his father starve to death, his mother disappear and his sister flee to China to search for food. In 2006, when he was 16, he decided to make the dangerous escape alone out of North Korea to look for food -- and for his sister. While hiding in China, he met a Korean-Chinese grandmother who protected and fed him until he found help from Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), a NGO that provided more stabilized shelter and later helped him to escape to the United States.
Joseph arrived in the U.S. in 2007 as a refugee. He is now in college studying international business. He is still searching for his sister.

What others say

“In my mind, I thought death is death, whether I die of starvation or from being caught by the North Korean authorities.” — Joseph Kim

Joseph Kim’s TED talk

More news and ideas from Joseph Kim

We humans

Desperate times during the famine in North Korea

June 3, 2015

Two decades ago, millions of North Koreans faced widespread famine, and many families would do just about anything to feed their children. In an edited excerpt from his memoir, Joseph Kim describes life during the famine -- and one haunting consequence of his hunger.

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Live from TEDGlobal

From hunger to hope: Joseph Kim at TEDGlobal 2013

June 13, 2013

“North Korea is often in the news, conjuring images of missiles, weapons, dictatorships and sometimes eccentric habits,” says Adrian Hong, TED Fellow and guest curator of Session 9, Forces of Change at TEDGlobal 2013. “But underneath all that bluster is a country racked by starvation, by oppression, by fear, by concentration camps. In many ways, […]

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Live from TEDGlobal

Forces of Change: The speakers in session 9 of TEDGlobal 2013

June 13, 2013

In George Ayittey’s classic TED Talk from 2007, he describes two factions in Africa toggling for control — the “hippo generation,” the ruling elites riddled with corruption and inaction, and the “cheetah generation,” the fast-moving entrepreneurial leaders with the ability to create change. This session — guest hosted by TED Fellows Adrian Hong (who works […]

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