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The Defector: Escape from North Korea


A human smuggler helps two people defect from North Korea, only to leave them stranded in China. That’s just the beginning of an extraordinary 5,000 km journey in this highly suspenseful documentary.

The story of Sook-Ja, Yong-hee and Dragon (the smuggler) reflects the reality of tens of thousands of North Koreans currently hiding in China. It was shot undercover by Korean-Canadian filmmaker Ann Shin. Her intimate access to these three people and dramatic POV perspective wrapped around a compelling high-stakes story, helps The Defector pose broad questions about human smuggling and the pursuit of freedom.

An interactive web doc complements the film. It provides additional information about life in North Korea and what it’s like to escape. To avoid the monotony of an “informational” site, there’s a “choose your own adventure” type of game. The Defector Interactive uses a combination of footage and animation for a composite journey that puts you in a defector’s shoes. The immersive POV graphics create a gripping online experience that has already been written about in more than 12 magazines, including Fast Company, Adage, Playback and Creativity Online.


Cast/Participants: Dragon, Sook-ja, Yong-hee

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Awards & Nominations


Canadian Screen Awards


Digi Awards


Banff World Media Festival Rockie Awards