Joseph Kim tells the remarkable true story of his experience living in North Korea and his eventual escape in his newly-released book, reviewed by David W. Brown of mentalfloss.com.
Brown highlights five important things from Kim’s book, Under the Same Sky. Brown begins his review by stating that life in North Korea is likely even more terrible than most of us imagine.
Firstly, Brown says, Kim’s book makes it abundantly clear that life in North Korea is extremely difficult, if not impossible. A famine swept North Korea beginning in 1994, and starvation is widespread. Hunger is such a severe problem that cannibalism occurs in some cases.
Secondly, North Korean peasants hear rumors that there is hope in China. Many dream about escaping to China, becoming rich, and sending money back to their families. But the path to China is extremely dangerous and heavily guarded.
Thirdly, North Korea’s government relies heavily on propaganda and force. Kim says he was taught that North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung was “a kind of bureaucratic Santa Claus” who must be obeyed down to the minutest detail, such as never allowing dust to collect on his portrait.
If he and his officials were not perfectly obeyed, beatings, prison, or worse could follow.
Fourthly, detention camps are especially terrible places. The North Korean Department of Youth runs detention camps for anyone between the ages of 14 and 28. Crimes that can land a young person in a detention camp include truancy, stealing, and failure to properly honor North Korean leaders. Food is excessively scarce at detention camps and beatings are common.
Fifthly, if you are fortunate enough to get across the border to China, your journey has only begun. Chinese officials can easily spot an emaciated North Korean with a ravenous appetite wearing threadbare clothes.
It was helpful advice that allowed Kim to successfully cross the border into China and eventually find safe haven in the United States. Kim was told to look for a church (something he had no concept of) and to ask help from Christians (a term with which he was also unfamiliar).
Although Kim made it out of North Korea and to safety, many others are not so fortunate.
Photo courtesy: Wikipedia
Publication date: December 14, 2015