With the recent meeting of North and South Korean leaders in the news, You Are Here directing duo TWINTAOERS remind us of the real suffering behind the headlines
As relations on the Korean peninsula
have taken a sudden turn in a positive direction, with the two nations’ respective leaders officially agreeing an end to the Korean War, we should all remember exactly what the stakes are for so many people living in North Korea, as well as those who have managed to escape, but are still facing horrendous challenges.
Watching the latest developments between the North and South, directing duo TWINTAOERS are reminded of a film they made last year that acquainted them with the terrible experiences many North Korean refugees have to go through.
The twin brothers, Aaron and Winston Tao, who are represented by You Are Here in the UK, directed ‘Sleep Well, My Baby’ for the charity Liberty in North Korea. TWINTAOERS started out with little knowledge on the subject, but soon discovered why the charity’s work is so vital.
“Initially, we didn’t know too much about how North Korean refugees escaped their country, or even about the conditions they were living in that propelled them to escape,” they say. “We also weren’t aware that escaping North Korea isn’t the most difficult part for refugees – it’s getting through China, to Southeast Asia. Because the Chinese government has strong relations with North Korea, if a refugee is caught, they’re most likely to be sent back to North Korea where they can be beaten to death or imprisoned. Many times, the women are sold or trafficked in China and have no say whatsoever because if they make any noise they’ll be turned in to authorities and sent back. So, they find themselves in an even more imprisoned state (many times) than when they left. It’s a terrible situation. After reading multiple case files about their individual stories, we felt compelled to help and wanted to create a film that would bring more awareness to what some of these refugees go through in their search for freedom.”
There was this one story that made such an impact on the brothers that it became central to the film: “It was about a North Korean refugee who was riding with her captor on the back of a moped. At one point, she jumped off the moped – eight months pregnant – just to get her hat. That moment really stuck out to us, and we just couldn’t help but ask ourselves why someone would endanger their unborn child to go back for a hat? At that point, it couldn’t have been just a hat – it represented something to her. To her, it was freedom; hope. It was as if she reached a boiling point where something exploded deep within her that drove her to say, ‘I’m not going to take this anymore. I refuse. I’m a human being. And I’m going to live like one.’ There was this deep sense of injustice that we felt for this woman, and we knew that at that point we had to figure out a way to tell her story.
“We’re grateful that there are organisations like Liberty in North Korea who help rescue North Korean refugees and reintegrate them into society. We’re also really grateful for the opportunity to have done this film and are glad that it has helped shed more awareness on the situation in North Korea."