Jessie Kim, The CEO Behind Jessie Kitchen


istory north korean chef


Jessie Kim | Hometown: Hyesan, Ryanggang Province  | CEO of Jessie Kitchen | Major: Chinese Foreign Affairs and Commerce, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies 

I was a very straightforward and fearless little girl. People said perhaps this is because I grew up without any worries under a mother who was very devoted to her family and the father who was a university professor. I loved my mom so much I always followed her around when my dad scolded me. But my mother, someone I thought would be with me forever, passed away. 

When I was 12, my very young and pretty mother was 36 years old. She died too young, leaving me and my dad behind. Unable to accept my mother's absence at a young age, I suffered from an aphasia, and was hospitalized for a long time due to a burst of veins all over my body. My body gradually improved over time, but I decided not to go to school anymore so I eventually dropped out. Although I was young, I had a clear idea of finances. I thought of making money, so every summer I went to the mountains to dig up herbs and sell them to raise business funds .

istory North korean food

I purchased grain cheap in the fall with the money I made as business funds, and made a lot of money the following spring by selling it at a high price. But after a while, I suddenly felt like a money-making machine, and I could no longer find meaning in what I did.

This is why I wanted to go to a bigger world, and I crossed the Tumen River and defected to Gilim, China, and lived in a monthly rent room for about a year and a half. At that time, I studied Chinese and did business simultaneously. Because of my unstable status, however, life in China was unsettling. I eventually came over to South Korea where I could secure a safe life.

I didn't know much about South Korean society, so I had to weigh in what's better for me: starting work or going to college. I came to the conclusion that going to college would be much better in the future. I traveled a lot, ate and played well, and spent time participating in human rights activities for North Koreans while at school.

istory north korean defector story

Since I was young, I have always enjoyed making food, my biggest joy is sharing the food that I made. This is how I started Jessie Kitchen in 2020 with the intention of helping people of Korea understand one another better and connecting them through food, which I not only enjoy making but also good at.

There is something I want to change through Jessie Kitchen. Many North Korean defectors have settled in South Korea, but I still feel that the public’s attitude towards them remains the same as before. I think we, the progressive people, should change this. Thinking that the person who could bring change can start with myself, I merely hope the South Koreans who I get to meet will change their attitude toward North Korean defectors.

Also, I have a goal to grow my business into a JK group so that people can think of my tofu rice balls and understand North Korean food culture better when there comes a successful inter-Korean unification or economic exchanges.


  • Hobby: Collecting coins or bills from different countries
  • Favorite Color: Purple or bright colors
  • What I like: I like tall views
  • Current Interests: Design & Marketing

See Jessie's Instagram here. 

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