North Korean defector stands for South Korean election
April 11, 2012 -- Updated 0549 GMT (1349 HKT)
- Cho Myung-chul hopes to become first North Korean in South Korean parliament
- Cho defected from the North and wants to help the South form a better Pyongyang policy
- South Koreans head to the polls on Wednesday for parliamentary elections
Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Cho Myung-chul remembers what it was like to vote in North Korea.
"They have a little piece of paper and a pencil right next to it. If you don't like the candidate you can pick up the pencil and cross the name off, but the person who picks up the pencil will die. There is always someone watching outside and of course there is only one candidate."
The idea of a free election seemed impossible to Cho Myung-chul before he defected. But he is now hoping to become the first North Korean in the South Korean parliament.
South Koreans head to polls on Wednesday
He stands a fair chance of being elected, number four of 46 proportional representative candidates for the ruling Saenuri party. He asks CNN, "Can you imagine the shock of all my former colleagues and school friends in North Korea if I get a place in the National Assembly?"
Guided launch pad tour in North Korea
What the North Koreans are thinking
North Korea's cult of Kim
Cho was a professor in North Korea and was among the elite, meaning his life was far more bearable than others. He says that South Koreans don't really know how dire life can be for many in the North and how bad the human rights situation is.
"They understand in an abstract sense that something is not right, but they don't have actual knowledge of life there." That is one reason he has entered politics, to help the conservative party form a better policy when dealing with Pyongyang.
Cho describes the difficulties he found when first trying to assimilate into South Korean life. He found it very difficult to cope, saying, "Living here I had to re-learn everything from the beginning. There was only one thing we had in common, the language and other than that, the gap was huge."
The Korean peninsula was split in 1953 when an armistice was signed after a bloody war. The two sides have never signed a peace agreement. South Korea has since grown to become Asia's fourth largest economy whereas North Korea struggles to feed its own people, asking the international community for food and monetary aid.
Cho acknowledges many defectors find it hard to adapt and says the government has to do more to help. "There are around 23,000 North Korean defectors here now. These people are the pioneers of unification, they have to be able to settle here and succeed. If you can't reunify with this small group of people, you have no chance with 23 million people in North Korea."
Cho will find out Wednesday if his parliamentary election bid is successful as South Koreans head to the polls.
Today's five most popular stories
Part of complete coverage on
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1207 GMT (2007 HKT)
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0307 GMT (1107 HKT)
President Barack Obama says he doesn't consider North Korea's hack of Sony Pictures "an act of war."
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2243 GMT (0643 HKT)
The U.S. has asked China for help battling North Korean hacking of American information systems, a senior administration official tells CNN.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Alex Gladstein, director of institutional affairs at Human Rights Foundation, says he'd like "to disrupt North Korea and help end the Kim regime's monopoly of knowledge."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
North Korea's fury over the movie comedy "The Interview" appears to have taken the secretive state's oversensitivity to new extremes.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2336 GMT (0736 HKT)
CNN's Brian Todd looks into the possibility of whether North Korea received help from freelancers or other countries.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
A retired Silicon Valley executive and Korean War veteran was hauled off his plane at Pyongyang in 2013. Here's what happened next.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1057 GMT (1857 HKT)
A recent defector from North Korea tells of the harrowing escape into China via Chinese 'snakehead' gangs.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
CNN's Amara Walker speaks to a former North Korean prison guard about the abuses he witnessed and was forced to enact on prisoners.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0559 GMT (1359 HKT)
The chief of the Commission of Inquiry into North Korea's human rights says the world can no longer plead ignorance to the regime's offenses.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Kim Jong Il's former bodyguard tells of the beatings and starvation he endured while imprisoned in the country's most notorious prison camp.
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 0543 GMT (1343 HKT)
Despite tense relations, China benefits from Kim Jong Un's rule in North Korea. David McKenzie explains.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0851 GMT (1651 HKT)
North Korea has "the world's most advantageous human rights system" and citizens have "priceless political integrity", the country declared.