Kim Geum-Hyuk, a North Korean defector, was shocked when visiting the United States to find that it is nothing like it’s made out to be by his homeland.
Before visiting the United States, Kim was under the impression that Americans were “street dogs,” often referred to as “the Wolves.” North Korea painted Americans as “the people who torture and kill people.”
Fortunately for Kim, he was able to witness a different story after one trip to the United States.
In an interview with the YouTube channel Dimple on July 4, he revealed everything that shocked him about America during his first visit.
When living in North Korea, Kim was taught not just that the United States is “bad” but that it is the nation’s “complete enemy.” He said he and his countrymen were taught to fight America “till the end.”
“I was one of the victims of brainwash education,” Kim said, “so I had hostility toward America.”
When asked if he believed North Korea would defeat the U.S. in combat, Kim said he did not believe that because of his college education.
“I was the lucky one who received a good education and went to a good college there so I had an opportunity to look at many of the objective documents about America,” he said.
“I remember a time when America’s military power was stronger than all other countries combined,” Kim said. “I thought, ‘We can’t get over them.'”
News of the Iraq war of 2003 was broadcast in North Korea, and Kim was under the impression that Iraq was going to win based on the reports.
“I was like, ‘Iraq is amazing, they’re gonna win,'” he said. “And I found out America wiped them all out in 57 days. So I fixed my thoughts.”
When Kim visited America, he realized he was wrong about many other things.
“What I was taught in North Korea was an image of the coldness and wickedness of Americans,” Kim said.
However, he said he was overwhelmed by the kindness shown to him upon arriving in California.
When he was out for a walk, several people said, “Hi,” which left him confused. He looked around to see if the passersby were speaking to someone else, but when he realized the greetings were directed toward him, he started to return the gesture. “I did it as well, awkwardly,” he said.
Kim continued to experience kindness as he explored the States. This was when he realized he was “totally wrong” about Americans.
“I finally got that this is the culture of American society,” Kim said. He found Americans are “so nice, funny and open to anything.”
The United States continued to jolt him. He visited the Grand Canyon and compared it to feeling like he was on Mars. He also traveled to Texas, where he was in awe of the “huge fields and endless roads” and amazed at how “stunningly beautiful” the land was.
Kim was also stunned by the amount of racial diversity he came across in California. “So there are Mexicans, Chinese, Koreans and Hispanics,” he said. “So many people made up one community.”
The only stressful experience he had while in America was the “tipping culture.”
“I get why we should give the tips,” Kim said. “But I was not used to that social custom. It was so confusing to calculate how much tips I should pay.”
On a lighter note, he also mentioned that America is where you “can gain weight.” “They eat foods that are so heavy and greasy,” he said, noting that he put on almost 10 pounds during his visit.
Born in Pyongyang, Kim now resides in Seoul, South Korea, and works toward bringing liberty to his home country.
He is a peace ambassador for One Young World and studies political science and diplomacy at Korea University.
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