PSCORE (People for Successful COrean REunification) is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, based in Seoul, that strives for mutual understanding and harmony between the two Koreas, and aims to provide a platform to discuss topics such as democratisation, human rights and social issues. It also helps refugees and defectors from North Korea settle and find acceptance in the South. As of July 2013, there are 25,000 North Koreans who live below the demilitarized zone, the border that has divided the two Koreas since 1953.

In August 2010, before the recital of the Passport  poem at the Through Gallery in Itaewon (accompanied by Mathieu Stewart on percussion, and a host of local expat poets and performers), North Korean defector Kim Yong-il, now executive director of PSCORE (seen below giving a speech at the UN), explained how he escaped from North Korea in 1996. After swimming across the Amur river into China, Kim Yong-il travelled for months, without documents or money, through Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, until eventually obtaining a South Korean passport at the SK embassy in Bangkok. Within North Korea, people require a 'passport' and a legal permit if they wish to travel from one city or province to another - without such a permit, it is impossible to purchase a travel ticket. Certain areas of North Korea, particularly the border regions, are out of bounds for the North Koreans themselves. Villagers are encouraged to report visiting strangers. Since the 1980s, illegal travel within the country can lead to capital punishment, including hanging in public, with the authorities ushering people out of their homes in order to witness the execution. Apart from attempting to cross the Amur river without being shot, another way out of the country is via human trafficking - women pay to be smuggled out to China, where they are often forced into prostitution. 80-90% of North Korean defectors in China are in fact women; PSCORE actively works to bring such women to South Korea. Since early 2010, PSCORE have been pushing for a law within South Korea for the protection of North Korean defectors. A similar law already exists in Japan and the US.

Click here to read an interview with Kim Yong-il, executive director of PSCORE, on Deutsche Welle, 26 July 2013 (in English).