Posted on Nov 14, 2018

North Korean Defector’s Poem: My Hometown Means the Sea

In the evocative short film commissioned by the Washington Post, we unravel the poignant journey of Eun-jeong Oh, a North Korean defector, as she navigates life from Kyongsong to Seoul. This captivating narrative delves into her solace in literature and the expression of tumultuous emotions through poetry.

Embark on an emotional journey through the short film MY HOMETOWN MEANS THE SEA: A NORTH KOREAN DEFECTOR’S POEM, a compelling narrative commissioned by the Washington Post. This poignant exploration, part of Anna Fifield’s extensive coverage on North Korean defectors thriving in Seoul, unfolds the poetic odyssey of Eun-jeong Oh (26).


Eun-jeong Oh’s roots trace back to Kyongsong, a coastal town just south of Chongjin in North Korea. In 2009, she left behind a tumultuous past, vividly painted against the backdrop of the sea. Her father, a sailor with his share of struggles, provided the foundation for a childhood filled with salt-kissed mornings and after-school swims. But tragedy struck—her mother departed, her father met a fatal accident, and her younger sister moved away.


In a candid interview with Anna Fifield, Eun-jeong Oh reveals the catalyst that led her to poetry. “I was living by myself in our family house. Then in 2009, I escaped, too.” In North Korea, she had read a solitary novel borrowed from a neighbor, a treasured possession despite its worn pages. Seoul, however, opened the floodgates of literary exploration. Enrolling in college, she stumbled upon a captivating Korean literature professor, sparking a newfound passion for the written word.


The turning point came with the sight of a maple tree on campus, its fiery foliage triggering memories of her sister. Unbeknownst to her, these raw emotions birthed her first poem. “I felt like each cell in my body was coming to life. My first book came out in 2015. It’s called ‘Calling Home.'”


Eun-jeong Oh’s poetic journey became a poignant reflection on her homeland. “A lot of my works are related to North Korea. I have such fond memories of there. Even though there is oppression, there were also moments of happiness, and I don’t have to deny those times.” Her works, a blend of hardship and joy, convey the universal essence of humanity.


The film is a testament to collaboration, with MIN JOO KIM, JOYCE LEE, and JESSE MESNER-HAGE spearheading production. UDO LEE‘s mastery recorded sound, while ERIN PARICK O’CONNOR expertly edited and color-graded the film. The evocative music, a crucial element, is composed by APM MUSIC.


In appreciation, I extend my thanks to the dedicated team who contributed to this cinematic portrayal of resilience and hope.