The two Koreas have little in common despite an ancient shared history and belonging to one of the world's most homogenous ethnic groups.
The personality cult for the North's leaders and a strictly regimented life for almost everyone else makes North Korean defectors ill-prepared for the bewildering barrage of demands of life in one of the world's most wired societies. Quite a few have adapted but the majority lose out. They are uprooted and transplanted in different soil.
A North Korean defector, asking not to be identified for fear of retribution against relatives still in the North, said it was an oppressive life, not hunger, that drove her away. "It wasn't because of poverty but the political oppression," she said. "I wanted to raise my daughter in better circumstances."
Kim Jong-il, creating the communist world's first dynasty by taking power when his father died in 1994, has presided over an economy that was once on a par with the South's and now ranks among the world's poorest.
The economic woes, and famines have not stopped the official media from repeatedly referring to their country as a people's paradise.
[Excerpt of an article by Jonathan Thatcher , Reuters]