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North Korea remains one of the most isolated and repressive countries in the world.
In her book Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad, writer Melanie Kirkpatrick describes the country as "hell on earth — a modern day Hermit Kingdom, ranking at the bottom of every international measure of freedom and justice."
Each year, despite the fact that fleeing the country is a capital offense, a brave few attempt an escape to freedom through China. For those lucky enough to cross the border successfully, the danger doesn't end there.
Kirkpatrick talks with NPR's Neal Conan about the harrowing personal stories of North Korean defectors and their quest for freedom.