This book has been spreading like wildfire amongst my group of friends.  I finally got my hands on a copy that was going around and now I more than understand why.  It was such a good read and I highly recommend it.

The book is written by Barbara Demick an award winning journalist that was placed in Seoul for work.  She spent six years talking with defectors from North Korea and learning their stories.  Some young, some old, some successful, but all with heartbreaking stories of the world they had to escape from, and what they had to leave behind.

I love the way she sets up the stories and how they are spaced out and interwoven in a sense.  I knew life in North Korea was bad, but I didn’t realize just how desperate times got during their breakdown in the government that refused to acknowledge that people were starving to death left and right by the masses.

I never realized how difficult life for a defector must be.  They are raised in this ideal similar to Orwell’s 1984 and it is just mindbogglingly.  The sense that they can be executed for using a cell phone but then they go into China or South Korea and they are everywhere.  Education of N. Koreans is 2-4 years behind that of a S. Korean so the children struggle when they defect into South Korean schools.  Just all of these little things that either a person survives or continues struggling with.  Just the risk of defecting alone is great, and there are still others that are so firmly set in the ways they were brought up, to believe that Kim Jong-Il is God and the government readily takes care of its people and that the regime is everything, that they would never dream of leaving.

There are many things to that I just didn’t know.  For instance until the 1970s North Korea was actually more industrious than South Korea. I also now know how to live on grass and pine trees incase there is a food shortage in some distant future. Also, sadly the government still believes in the idea of tainted blood and if necessary they will kill 3 generations of one family to try and blot out a bad blood stain.  It’s sad but still true.

This book was eye opening and really made me change my view a lot on North Korea.  Their government is still scary and always will be, but the people there are so brainwashed I can’t even really blame them anymore for not wanting to leave, or for fearing to speak out if they do.

So, if you get a chance pick it up, and you won’t regret it!