A North Korean defector has had an emotional reunion with an Australian backpacker who helped her family escape from North Korea.
A North Korean defector has been reunited with an Australian backpacker who helped her family escape from North Korea.
The pair was reunited as part of SBS's Insight program on North Korea.
This was the first time Hyeonseo Lee had seen Dick Stolp since he helped her in Laos while her family was en route to South Korea in 2009.
The surprise reunion at SBS Television was arranged by Insight's Associate Producer, Luan McKenna. Ms Lee's fiancé, Brian Gleason and Stolp both knew about the reunion.
Mr McKenna says it has been difficult to keep a secret and lie to Lee, especially since she had wanted to track down Stolp for years to thank him.
“The whole operation was fraught with difficulty and was almost foiled by Hyeonseo's reluctance to come to Sydney without knowing Dick was coming," Mr McKenna writes in his blog.
“But it was worth it to see her face when she met Dick in the SBS foyer…. After all, not only did his money get Hyeonseo, her mother and her brother to safety -- it was also an act of kindness that restored her faith in humanity.”
[READ: Insight's Associate Producer Luan McKenna blogs about the reunion]
At age 17, Lee defected from North Korea and went to China. She later went to great – and risky – lengths to get her family out of North Korea. While in Laos in 2009, her family members were caught by officials and placed in detention.
As she sat alone in a café, in a country she didn't know and having spent all her money, Lee began to cry. She had come to a dead end and feared for her family's lives.
In that moment, Stolp, who was backpacking in Laos at the time, walked up to Lee and offered to help. He withdrew $1,000 and gave her the money without hesitation.
As mentioned in her TED talk, Lee asked him, “Why are you helping me?” to which Stolp replied, “I'm not helping you; I'm helping the North Korean people.”
Watch the full reunion and discussion on North Korea on Insight on SBS ONE and online www.sbs.com.au/insight/live
In a special live Insight episode, defectors join Jenny Brockie in the studio to help paint a picture of life in North Korea. They are joined by some of the world's best brains and analysts who will try to piece together what's unfolding in the secretive state.