North Koreans visit Auckland to share stories about their escape

North Korean defectors visiting Auckland say they're hopeful a unified Korea will bring an end to crippling famine and starvation gripping their homeland.

The group are in New Zealand to share their experiences at churches around the city, spreading the word about their escape.

For Song Il Park that was 10 years ago, an experience he'll never forget.

He escaped to China through a river in the winter, it was icy cold and he struggled to get through the water before making it to the other side.

North Korea's isolation and the suffering of its people is well documented, with a recent UN report showing two in five people there are undernourished.

These defectors know that all too well.

Mr Park says there's a lot of starvation, the main reason for actually crossing to China is because of this desperate need for food. But many freeze in the cold while attempting their escape.

Some defectors have already made Auckland their home, and a Christian group is looking to set up a school for them here.

They all have Reverend Kwang Choi to thank.

Since 1998, he's helped more than four hundred people escape North Korea. He told Newshub it's the same as it was in 1998, with people dying from famine.

In recent months the hermit kingdom's icy relations with the West seemed to have started to defrost.

A week ago Kim Jong Un made history by stepping foot into South Korea and hugging its president. In an unprecedented move, Donald Trump is expected to meet Kim Jong Un within the next month, leaving Reverend Choi hopeful.

He hopes for the nuclear issue to be resolved, and for unified Korea to come out at the end of it.

The group will stay in Auckland for another two weeks, sharing stories to churchgoers. But while they relish life on the outside, they hope to see family still on the inside.

A fate that rests with two leaders set to meet in the coming weeks.