The February edition of National Geographic includes an excellent article about the ordeals two North Koreans went through to escape the Stalinist country.
A frigid November day pressed against the windows of a shabby apartment building in the Chinese city of Yanji, ten miles from the North Korean border. Three stories up, footsteps stopped outside a door. At the sound, two young women hurried to a back room and shrank against a wall. Then came a knock. The women, defectors from North Korea, bowed their heads, expecting the worst. If the Chinese police found them without identity cards, they would be deported in handcuffs and chains. Back in North Korea, they would be sentenced to years of hard labor in a prison camp.