After she defected to South Korea from North Korea in 2006, Ahn Mi Ock was shocked to learn that most South Koreans lived in small apartments. Ahn, 44, had fully expected that once in the South she would enjoy the same luxurious lifestyle portrayed in the television dramas she had watched on smuggled DVDs. It had not occurred to her that the fashionably dressed characters sipping Champagne in the gardens of stylishly furnished houses were not, well, average South Koreans.
In their first 6 to 12 months in South Korea, North Korean defectors tend to spend at least three hours a day watching television: talk shows, reality shows, quiz shows. They said they paid closest attention to news and dramas, because they thought these provided the most useful portrayals of South Korean society. The hope was that by using television to study the differences between the two countries before daring to face actual South Koreans, they could reduce the chances of embarrassment.
"But I stopped watching television dramas, because it was getting in the way of my relating to the South Korean people," says defector Kim Heung Kwang.