Portraits of North Korean Defectors


Unperson features portraits of North Korean defectors and the incredible stories retracing their steps to freedom


ISBN: 9781926856162 Category:


Unperson is one of the first photo books of North Korean defectors. The 15 intimate portraits and the stories of the brave people who decided to take that chance to flee to South Korea. The road to South Korea is dangerous and can take years with the many different borders of Mongolia, Laos, Thailand and China. The people fleeing are filled with the fear of being arrested and sent back to labour camps. Once they arrive in South Korea, they often struggle to find a new identity – lost between their North Korean past and South Korean future.

Tim Franco travelled to the crossing points, aiming to capture the diversity of landscape that is the background of North Korean defection. He chose to use a large format camera with Polaroid film to capture each defector.

In George Orwell’s 1984, an ‘Unperson’ is someone who has been vaporised, whose record has been erased. As each defector begins their new life, they all start out as an Unperson.

Additional information

Weight 733 g
Dimensions 22.2 x 27.3 cm
Publisher name The Magenta Foundation
Publication date 16 July 2021
Number of pages 104
Format Hardback
Contributors Foreword by Sébastien Falletti, Photographs by Tim Franco
Dimensions 22.2 x 27.3 cm
Weight 733 g


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Tim Franco is a French-Polish photographer. In 2005 he moved to China and started documenting its incredible urbanisation and social impacts whilst collaborating with newspapers such as Le Monde, Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. In 2015 he published his first monograph Metamorpolis about the rural migration in the fastest urbanising city in the world - Chongqing. During this time Franco developed his style of working on analogue cameras, a minimalist aesthetic to documentary photography and focused his work around portraiture. Sébastien Falletti is a journalist, author and speaker, currently China/East Asia correspondent for French daily newspaper Le Figaro. He published A thousands miles to Freedom, My escape from North Korea (St Martin's Press, 2015) with North Korean defector Eunsun Kim as well as La Piste Kim, voyage au coeur de la Corée du Nord" (Equateurs, 2018). He is also the author of Corée du sud, le goût du miracle (Nevicata 2016) and a regular contributor to Jane's Defence Weekly, as well as Geo Magazine.