‘As Long As I’m Dead, My Family Is Alive’: Defector Recalls Daring Escape From North Korea

The rise and fall of Dzhon Khen Mu, ending with his dramatic escape from North Korea, began with a box of ginseng roots.

As a hotel manager in his hometown of Pyongyang, the capital, Dzhon was one of the few North Koreans to be in close contact with foreigners.

North Korea’s totalitarian laws bar its citizens from speaking freely to foreigners, so Dzhon’s interactions with hotel guests were restricted to several state-sanctioned courtesy formulas.

It was a simple, innocent gesture of hospitality that changed his life forever.