Since reading The Orphan Master’s Son, I have picked up several other books on North Korea. All of a sudden it’s like I CAN. NOT. LOOK. AWAY.
I am obsessed. The escape stories. The starvation in camps stories. The day to day COMPLETE LACK OF FREEDOM. Every time I think I have read the worst human rights abuse yet. Boom. There’s another one that is even more awful.
I am astounded. I mean I knew North Korea was sort of oppressive and the Kim family to be absurdly powerful, but really. What is happening over there is cray cray.
Escape from Camp 14 was recommended to me by a friend in the comment section of my blog, so I read it first. In one sitting. Shin’s story of being born in a prison camp and escaping from the camp and then from North Korea at the age of 23 is unbelievable.
His escape is nothing short of miraculous. This book has now become required reading at the Chino House, as in I am reading portions aloud at dinner to my children. (They love when I do this. sarcasm)
Next was Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. Barbara Demick interviews six different people who have defected from the same area of North Korea, which gives the book a sense of place that ties the stories together. Each person’s journey is completely different though. The title is from a national song that North Koreans sing in which they affirm through singing that there is nothing to envy in the world outside of North Korea. Of course, as a book title, the flip side is true. As outsiders, there is most certainly nothing to envy about the life of a citizen in this insane regime.
I was most fascinated by the way in which the defectors (and this was also true of Shin in Escape from Camp 14) are completely unprepared for the freedom of democracy and a normal life of making choices. North Koreans have been told every move to make from the time they are born, so they are overwhelmed by a world full of simple decisions.
The book leaves the reader with each of the six people beginning to get used to navigating a life of freedom. I want to know where they are in ten or twenty more years.
The author also brings up questions about what the world will do if the regime in North Korea collapses. The ramifications of South Korea absorbing 23 million people who have been brainwashed, starved and given obsolete educations are pretty devastating.
I have been poking around for answers on the internet to the many dilemmas surrounding North Koreans and I have come across one organization that I think is doing great stuff called LiNK (Liberty in North Korea).
For now, please get yourself a copy of Escape from Camp 14 and come have coffee with me. I have chewed my nails to their nibs.
Next I want to read this: Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad