This is an archived article that was published on in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Seoul, South Korea • More than 21,000 North Koreans now live in South Korea. For many, the news of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death stirred mixed emotions.

Several described a burst of joy upon hearing that Kim had died, but also a surge of unease over the fate of relatives and friends and even a shadow of homesickness.

South Korea is no paradise for the defectors: Facing prejudice and lacking job skills, they rarely feel welcomed by their capitalist brethren.

Here are what two of them had to say:

The painter • "I felt rather calm after hearing of Kim Jong Il's death," said Song Byeok, 42, a painter who learned his art drawing propaganda posters in North Korea. "I thought to myself about him: 'You, too, are human in the end.'

"It was his destiny. He couldn't avoid it. ... He was praised like a god, but in the end, he was only a human who fell like an autumn leaf."

Desperate for food in 2000, Song and his father tried to cross the river into China — not to defect but just to get something to eat from relatives on the Chinese side.

He still believed Kim Jong Il was a good leader.

However, when his father was swept away by the current and drowned, border guards ignored Song's pleas to help rescue him; instead they beat Song and detained him. The experience convinced him to leave for good in 2002.

"I thought to myself after hearing Kim died that a wind of democratization may finally blow in North Korea," he said. "Reforms may come because Kim Jong Il has died.

"Kim Jong Un is young, and he may lean toward reforms. But I still think he may not last long because he's too inexperienced. He only had a year or so to be groomed as successor.

"It may have been better for him if Kim Jong Il had lasted longer."

Song Byeok is the name he paints under and is widely known by in South Korea; he refused to divulge his real name for fear of retaliation against relatives and friends still in North Korea.

The Activist • "I know a person's death is usually something that shouldn't be celebrated, but this time it was completely different," said Kim Seung-cheol, 50.

"Kim's death meant that North Korea would start changing," he said. "It was a hopeful sign for a change."

Kim went out with a friend to celebrate over sausages and "soju," a popular Korean liquor. They laughed with joy.

When he defected 20 years ago, he left behind his wife and son. "If unification happens, I would like to find out if my son is still alive," he said. "If I find him, I will ask him to hit me for leaving him. ...

"I hope South Korea can start engaging North Korea. A conciliatory gesture may be needed to open up North Korea. Seoul should send a message to Pyongyang that South Korea wants to go together with the new leadership in North Korea."