Now a senior in college here, she has received a US government grant that gives her eight months of English-language training and another semester of study in psychology at a US university. Wherever she goes, she conveys the message of the suffering inflicted on North Korean women, generally estimated by officials and activists to make up at least 70 percent of the defectors who cross into China.
She believes that exposure of the plight of North Koreans, particularly women, is the best she can do to bring about change.
Lately, Kim has been campaigning on behalf of North Korean defectors held in China in demonstrations across the street from the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, protesting China’s policy of complying with North Korean demands to return defectors to the North. Once she was angry enough to grab the microphone and shriek out her sentiments in Chinese.
She also talks about the plight of North Koreans in meetings at college campuses – though she’s disappointed by the apathy she encounters among young South Koreans.
"I feel resentful there is small interest here, but I feel thankful for those who attend when I talk," she says. "I know I will work [to promote] North Korean issues when in the US."
Kim says “living in North Korea was impossible” as she discusses a book, “North Korea: The Nine-Year Escape from Hell,” that she wrote with French journalist Sebastien Falletti.
Mr. Falletti describes Kim's book as one way for her to raise awareness in South Korea and the world, considering how shocked she was by the reluctance of South Koreans to heed the daily life-and-death struggle endured by most North Koreans.