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Musselkanaal reception centre. Photo: Je Seung Lee/Al Jazeera

Gilze en Rijen, the Netherlands — There are hundreds of North Korean defectors living in Europe, many considering it safer for themselves and their families still in the North than either South Korea or the U.S.

Why it matters: "North Korea considers the U.S. and South Korea as enemies, while its view on Europe is more neutral,” says Jihyun Park, outreach officer at Connect to North Korea, an NGO that campaigns for the rights of North Korean defectors worldwide. Most defectors from North Korea are eventually offered South Korean citizenship, leading to some European countries deporting asylum seekers there. But right activists protest against this, saying North Koreans complain of discrimination in South Korea, which is ill-equipped to handle so many refugees.

There are currently 91 North Koreans in the Netherlands, 25 of whom are refugees, according to official statistics. Kyung-Ae Choi, a North Korean woman in her early fifties, first arrived in Europe on a fake Chinese passport, in 2012.

  • "I was as cheerful as a kid," she said of her first train ride in Europe, describing an unprecedented sense of freedom. She is currently living at a reception centre in the Netherlands.
  • Because she is undocumented, Choi is unable to work. Each month, she is obliged to meet with the organization in charge of expediting the departure of foreign nationals not entitled to remain.
  • "I really feel like I want to die [after each meeting]. I have even thought about leaving the kids behind and killing myself," said Choi. "They tell me to provide evidence on why my husband and family back in North Korea will be sent to prison camps if I move to South Korea. But this is something that you cannot prove with a piece of paper.”

The bottom line: Ban-suk Jung, Choi's oldest son, says he feels “much more relaxed” and free in the Netherlands than he did in China. Still, he says “it is hard to dream when you don't know what you can do or where you will be. Right now, all I can think about is getting the permanent residency, and then I will be able to think about what I want to do and plan my future."

Go deeper: Read the full Al Jazeera report.

Go deeper

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Pentagon warns of ISIS-K capabilities outside Afghanistan

The site of an airstrike conducted by the U.S. against a planner for ISIS-K in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan in August. Photo: Xinhua via Getty Images

U.S. intelligence believes ISIS-K has the "intent" to eventually launch attacks outside of Afghanistan and could be capable of doing so "somewhere between six or 12 months," a top Pentagon official told senators Tuesday.

Why it matters: The U.S. withdrawal and subsequent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has raised fears that terrorist groups will reconstitute and potentially pose a renewed threat to the U.S. homeland.

Exclusive: Billionaires back new media firm to combat disinformation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new public benefit corporation backed by billionaires Reid Hoffman, George Soros, and others is launching Tuesday to fund new media companies and efforts that tackle disinformation.

Why it matters: Good Information Inc. aims to fund and scale businesses that cut through echo chambers with fact-based information. As part of its mission, it plans to invest in local news companies.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
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Scoop: Sequoia Capital just blew up the VC fund model

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sequoia Capital, one of the world's oldest and most successful venture capital firms, is forming a single fund to hold all of its U.S. and European investments, including stakes in publicly-traded companies, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Venture capital is the money of innovation, but the industry itself rarely innovates. This is a radical exception.