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S'porean 'reunites' N. Korea defector and daughter through videos

SEE YOU AGAIN: North Korean Li (in black jacket) cried when she saw a YouTube video of her mother, who defected to South Korea four years ago. The video was shown to her by Singaporean photographer Pan (first from left). The other two are a tour operator and translator (in blue).


    Dec 15, 2015

    S'porean 'reunites' N. Korea defector and daughter through videos

    WANTING to do something special and memorable on his tenth project trip to North Korea, a Singaporean photographer made it his mission to locate the left-behind daughter of a woman who defected to South Korea four years ago.

    Aram Pan, noted for his collection of 360-degree scenic videos on North Korea shot since August 2013 with the permission of the reclusive country, succeeded in meeting 21-year-old Li Ryon Geum on Nov 26, reported Lianhe Wanbao yesterday.

    During their three-minute meeting set up amid a tour in Pyongyang, Mr Pan showed the university student a self-recorded video downloaded onto his phone of her mother yearning with grief to reunite with her family.

    "Watching the video, the daughter broke down in tears and then thanked me for enabling her to 'see' her mother again," Mr Pan told My Paper yesterday.

    According to Mr Pan, the North and the South are still technically at war - which means Ms Li's mother could not return to the North after she left her husband and daughter for the South to look for work by way of China in 2011.

    "Unless the two countries sign a peace treaty, it is almost impossible for the family to reunite," said Mr Pan.

    In fact, seeing each other online is also difficult as Internet service is available to only some elite government officials and foreigners.

    Mr Pan had earlier come across a video of the mother on YouTube and decided on the mission without telling the mother.

    Upon entering North Korea, he bought a local-issued phone card, which allowed him to download the mother's video.

    "I had official contacts in North Korea who found Ms Li easily," said Mr Pan.

    He shot the meeting with Ms Li and uploaded the video onto YouTube on Dec 1, which elicited messages the next day from the mother thanking him.

    "She said she would watch the video every day to ease her homesickness," said Mr Pan.

    The video was also put on an official news website of North Korea, which is visited by the country's citizens staying abroad.

    But, just like his previous videos on North Korea had drawn criticisms that he had been "brainwashed" to showcase only the good side of the country, the "online reunion" was also slammed by some South Korean media as "propaganda" for Pyongyang.

    Mr Pan's footage of North Korea can be seen on his Facebook account,