By J. Roslyn
These three reviews are of books, all written by young people, including Joseph Kim, who was aided by Christians. He and Park are eloquent TED talk speakers. These makes me cry just thinking about them. I can’t even read the worst ones, where they were forced to watch new born babies fed to dogs in the concentration camps.
“Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America, by Joseph Kim”
You are five years old and your parents and sister love you and spoil you. You love going to school and playing with your friends. Your mother cooks your favorite foods and your father creates toys for you and your friends.
Is this the plot of a young adult’s dystopian novel? It could be. Instead, it is the story of Joseph Kim, a child of North Korea, who lost his family and was homeless at 11 years old due to the famous famine of the 1990s and the brutal uncaring Kim dynasties. Joseph kept alive the only way possible for him, by begging, stealing, working in dangerous coal mines, fighting and joining gangs.
At thirteen, completely alone, dressed in rags and starving, he crossed into China, not caring if the Border Guards saw him. Still considering himself a thief, he learned that something called “churches” and “Christians” would give him food and money. Eventually, an American charity, “Liberty in North Korea (LiNK),” found him and brought him to the United States. You may have watched his TED Talk from Scotland or read a newspaper article about. Neither conveys the horror that a whole generation of North Korean children faced when their parents could no longer feed them and their government abandoned them. The true magnitude of the famine is unknown due to lack of information. Some reports estimate the death toll at 2 million.
This is not a brutal future depicted in a science fiction book, this is North Korea today. Joseph Kim survived in ways that would have destroyed most of us. His story deserves to be read.
“In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom, by Yeonmi Park”
Yeonmi Park is a human rights activist who escaped, at the age of 13, from North Korea to China in order to survive. A victim of the Kim Dynasty’s famine, Park was trafficked in China, along with her mother. Her memoir, “In Order to Live,” pulls no punches. She was born at a time when the North Korean government was losing its subsidies from Russia as communism collapsed. While her family lived well for a time due to her parents black market trading, eventually that ended when her father was thrown in a labor camp. His health was completely broken there, and he was unable to care for his family when he managed to get out early.
When Park and her mother were smuggled into China, her mother was raped by the human traffickers, and Park, at 13, was forced to become the mistress of another trafficker. After escaping to South Korea with the help of Christian missionaries, Park fought against the growing anti-North Korean defector sentiment in South Korea, against her own shame at what she was forced to do to survive, and against her own lack of education.
She is a remarkable young woman, so remarkable the North Korean regime has retaliated against her for exposing the true horrors in that concentration camp of a nation. Park’s growing awareness of the need for critical thinking, as opposed to brainwashed regurgitation of another person’s or regime’s ideas, is truly awe inspiring. Her recognition that there is no “I” in North Korea, only “we,” is something that individuals who have escaped cults have long understand. This is one of the first times that a survivor of North Korea has drawn that exact comparison. We will be hearing much more from Park. She is only in her early 20s, and she has already sent a repressive regime into apoplexy — imagine what else she has in store for this world. Five stars.
Print Length: 290 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press (September 29, 2015)
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
“A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea, by Eunsun Kim”
Eunsun Kim is not even thirty years old, but:
1. She has fled two countries, North Korea and China;
2. She was forced to leave school at 11 and spend nine years trying to survive, most of the time without sufficient food and without a real home;
3. She watched her father, grandparents and neighbors die of starvation;
4. She was sold by a NK human trafficker, along with her mother and sister, to an abusive family in rural China;
5. In order to reach South Korea, she and her mother were smuggled into Mongolia and had to cross the Gobi Desert at night;
6. She and her mother were forced to abandon her baby brother in China; and
7. She spent many months being interrogated by South Korean intelligence in order to prove she was not a North Korean spy.
This book is one of a growing number that exposes the true horrors of the great famine that killed over a million North Koreans in the 1990s and the brutal conditions that still exist in that country. Despite all of the above, and worse, Eunsun’s love of her homeland and her hope for a free, unified Korea remains, as does her commitment to try and help children who are experiencing devastation similar to what she endured. After reading her book, the common complaints of the West seem so unimportant. This book should be required reading in every high school.
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (July 21, 2015)