This was a fascinating story and I finished the book in record time – one week. North Korea is a hermit country and most of us know it only through reading in the press. This book gives an insider’s account from a North Korean’s perspective.
It’s been repeated in the book that because North Koreans are so isolated from the rest of the world, they have no comparative information about societies elsewhere in the world. Human rights, kindness of strangers are things they cannot fathom.
The author changed her name seven times, not all were due to security reasons. The first name change was because she was adopted by her step- father, her mother’s first love.
Life growing up in a village next to the border to China meant she was relatively well off from the illegal smuggling her mother did.
It’s amusing to read how the Kim regimes forcefully ensured they were idolised as a religion. Portraits of the Great and Dear leader were presented to a new home and were regularly checked to ensure there is no damages or dust. In the event of flooding or landslide, the portraits have to be saved, even at the cost of your son’s life, as she described it in her book.
The author had not set up intentionally to defect. She had merely wanted to go for a trip across to China before she turned 18. Although forbidden and illegal, it was something that could be taken care of easily by bribes if caught, or so she thought naively. What she hadn’t bargained for was a life on the run in China for years with various faked identities, and a final decision to defect to South Korea because she fell in love with a South Korean man.
Her next hurdle was to get her mother and brother to South Korea with her and it was not until a decade after she left home that they were finally reunited.
The narrative is simple and the chapters are short, making the book an enjoyable read. It was easy to empathize with her and one can’t help admiring her wit and courage in overcoming the many obstacles to be reunited with her family. I find myself crossing my fingers while she gets swindled again by corrupt police in Laos, and heave a sigh of relief at her meeting her Australian guardian angel who gave her money without conditions, and made her realise that there are compassion by strangers in the world.
There have been a few books by North Korean defectors recently and this is one I highly recommend.