I have a small obsession with North Korea. It started when I was about 12 and I was in the living room when my dad was watching a documentary about the country, and I listened to an account of a woman who was tortured in a labor camp there. She said they filled her body with boiling hot water until her stomach swelled. Then they put a board over her stomach and played see-saw. I was horrified – it is a disgusting image – but couldn’t believe that there was a place in this world that would do this to its own people.
I forgot about this until I was studying in Japan. I happened to come across another documentary in Japanese about a man who had been sent to a labor camp for watching South Korean dramas. I lived next door to the Korean students so I spent weeks afterwards quizzing them on what they knew. I was amazed that such a country could exist without having any other country try to fix the situation.
Someone recommended the book Nothing To Envy to me – it’s a collection of stories about people who managed to escape North Korea. As soon as I started it, I couldn’t put it down.
Extremely well written (though she repeats information a little, which was annoying), it was an amazing insight into life in North Korea. It shows the people to be brave, creative and not naive or stupid as some may think them to be. **SPOILERS** The thing I found the most amazing was that most of the people who escaped to South Korea couldn’t fit in and actually wanted to return back to the north.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in North Korea and wanted to have a glimpse into the hermit kingdom. If anyone else has any books that are similar that they recommend, please let me know!