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South Korea

Finding Humor In A Harrowing Escape From North Korea

Choi fled to freedom in South Korea, where he has managed to turn his frightening experiences into a laugh-out-loud online comic strip.

Cartoonist and animator Choi Seong-gok
Cartoonist and animator Choi Seong-gok
Jason Strother

SEOUL — There's a rumor that parts of the Lion King were animated in an unlikely place: North Korea. But Choi Seong-gok, 37, doesn't believe it. And he might know better than anyone else— he used to work as an animator for a studio in Pyongyang.

He told me about his old job over iced coffee at a cafe in Seoul, South Korea, where he now lives. "We made our own versions of the Lion King, Pocahontas as well as an animated Titanic movie. I'm guessing that this rumor about the studio working for Disney began because of these movies," he says.

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Mariateresa Fichele

Fifteen years ago, Francesco kept busy by scamming people. He was a regular visitor to the beaches of Terracina, south of Rome, where he was caught several times selling counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses. Then came the drugs, which fed a serious substance-induced psychosis and eventually he tested positive for HIV.

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