Tag Archives: North Korea

The Accusation by Bandi

The Accusation BandiTranslated from the Korean by last year’s Man Booker International Prize winner Deborah Smith ‘The Accusation’ by Bandi is a collection of seven short stories by a pseudonymous author who reportedly still lives in North Korea and works as an official writer for the government. Written in the early 1990s at a time when the country was gripped by famine, it is said that Bandi’s stories were eventually smuggled into South Korea by a relative who hid sheets of paper in a copy of ‘The Selected Works of Kim Il-sung’. While there have been many accounts of life in North Korea published by defectors, a work of fiction by an author still living in one of the most secretive countries in the world is exceptionally rare. Continue reading


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In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

In Order to Live Yeonmi Park‘In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom’ is Yeonmi Park’s account of how she escaped from North Korea when she was thirteen years old. Born in 1993, Park left Hyesan with her mother in an attempt to track down her older sister Eunmi who had already defected. However, they were sold to traffickers in China where they both experienced horrific abuse. Two years later, they fled across the Gobi desert to Mongolia before arriving in South Korea where Park has since become a leading human rights activist. Continue reading


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The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

The Orphan Master's SonWinner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, ‘The Orphan Master’s Son’ by Adam Johnson tells the story of Pak Jun Do’s journey from life in a North Korean state orphanage to professional kidnapper to a career in Pyongyang at the heart of Kim Jong-il’s regime.  It is an intriguing and sprawling story which explores several aspects of life in one of the most secretive countries in the world. Continue reading


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Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Nothing to EnvyI don’t own an e-reader so I borrowed my sister’s Kindle this week.  She lent it to me specifically so that I could read ‘Nothing to Envy’ by Barbara Demick which is based on accounts of life in North Korea.  Unsurprisingly, it is an extremely harrowing read.  Demick cleverly interweaves the stories of six North Korean defectors with descriptions of everyday life in North Korea including working in a hospital, life in a labour camp, reactions to the death of Kim Il-Sung, how people survived during the extreme food shortages in the mid-1990s and life after defecting from North Korea.

Demick’s absorbing account of a real life dystopia is both shocking and captivating.  The opening of the book is particularly striking.  At the beginning of the first chapter, the reader is confronted with a satellite image of North and South Korea taken at night-time (similar to the one below).  North Korea is almost entirely in darkness because electricity is so scarce.  But it didn’t always used to be like this.   Continue reading


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