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July 12th, 2011
Crossing Heaven's Border

“Recounts the harrowing, heartbreaking stories of North Korean refugees
who escape – or try to – across the border into China”
–Miami Herald

“The kind of suspense Hollywood cannot manufacture”
– Wall Street Journal

About the Film

In the past decade, up to 100,000 defectors have crossed the waters of the Tumen and Yalu Rivers into northeast China to escape from North Korea, the world’s last closed Communist state. In Crossing Heaven’s Border, WIDE ANGLE tells the moving and dramatic stories of a few of them.

Crossing Heaven’s Border reveals the plight of North Korean defectors from the point of view of intrepid South Korean journalists who risk their lives filming undercover for ten months to capture the haunting stories first-hand. The reporters introduce us to a mother working in China as a tour guide to support her six-year-old son who is sick with cerebral palsy and in dire need of medical attention. And we follow the grueling ten-day journey of a teenage girl and a little boy smuggled overland across China and Laos into Thailand, where North Korean defectors can request asylum at the South Korean embassy.

About the Issue

The exodus began in the mid-90s when North Korea was plagued by a famine that killed up to a million people. Most defectors flee from North Korea’s poor border regions into northeast China, where they live in hiding, work illegally and have no access to education or medical care. More than three quarters of the defectors are women, many of whom work in the sex industry. If caught by Chinese authorities, they are repatriated to North Korea, where they face severe punishment: persecution, torture, even execution in prison camps. Only a lucky few reach their ultimate goal: asylum in South Korea.

WIDE ANGLE anchor Aaron Brown further explores the plight of defectors from North Korea in a post-film interview with Debra Liang-Fenton, a human rights expert with the United States Institute of Peace, and the former Executive Director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.

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