North Korea really interests me, the fact that we don’t really know anything about it and the only glimpses of the reality of being a North Korean we get it from the few people who have managed to escape. Yeonmi was born in the Hyesan are of North Korea under the dictatorship of the Kim Dynasty. She describes how her childhood and throughout some of her teens she was brainwashed by the propaganda of the North Korean socialite society, believing that Kim Il-Sung has magic powers and that they were the elite of the world living better lives than others around. Whereas, the reality is that once the Soviet Union reduced its support of the nation they entered a terrible famine and thousands; if not millions, of North Koreans were killed in fights since the separation from South Korea.
Although Yeonmi was privileged compared to some in North Korea, she still did not live a safe or privileged life. There were times when she killed dragonflies in order to have food she was so hungry, and saw dead bodies piled up on the street. Her parents ran an illegal smuggling business which gave the more money than lots of those around them, but also put them at risk of imprisonment if not execution.
Unfortunately, Yeonmi’s struggles didn’t cease when she finally escaped North Korea as she was unknowingly trafficked into China at the age of thirteen years old. She spent years in China trying to get her family back together regularly fearing for her life. Every time she thought she had found a way out, she was duped by another man. Before eventually escaping into Mongolia; one fo the last groups of North Korean’s to get a safe passage to South Korea through Mongolia.
I feel like I learned so much from reading this book but I also have so many questions. Most important, why the hell is the rest of the world allowing this to happen? I understand there are real genuine fears about nuclear weapons, but I feel terrible that as a civilised community we are not doing more to help these people! I know there are people struggling all over the world, but this is the only country I know of where we aren’t even allowed to help. My sympathy is crazy for them. I feel like I need to learn more so if you have information to share please let me know, or if you have other books to recommend too!
I gave this 5/5 and will be encouraging everybody I know to pick it up and read it!
Please be warned this book should come with a number of trigger warnings: death, execution, violence, abuse, starvation, human trafficking, rape and murder.