Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick is an excellent book that covers the lives of six ordinary North Korean citizens and their families. From lovers in a forbidden relationship to a factory worker who worships Kim Il Sung.
Demick follows their lives in a world that gets worse every day after the club of communist countries came crashing down following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The author Barbara Demick is an American journalist who interviewed defected North Koreans while stationed in Seoul. She has done an amazing job gathering these stories into one wonderful book. The kind of overview she is able to create of everyday life in a country where radios are prefixed to one channel is one of a kind.
The book is nicely divided into different sections telling the story of the country and giving the reader an insight into its history while telling the stories of the six main characters at the same time.
Her style of writing combined with touching stories of everyday North Koreans trying to survive inside a system where the big brother watches you everywhere results into an excellent read.
I love the kinds of books that you can’t put down and that make you feel like you’re actually there. This achieved both.
Get your copy from e.g. Play.com
This book was published couple of years ago but I didn’t stumble on it until now. I’m lucky I did.
Aquariums of Pyongyang is an autobiographical book of a little boy who is sentenced to labor prison camp with his family. The author Kang Chol-Hwan tells a detailed story of his time in the camp, his life in North Korea as an ex-convict and his final escape to South Korea.
Kang Chol-Hwan was born to a wealthy family in Japan. Like many others during the 60’s and 70’s his family became a part of a moment of Japanese with Korean origins moving back to Korea to build a new paradise like country. Only to realize that this paradise on earth was nothing like they expected.
Kang recaps the events that took his family from a privileged life in the city of the elite, Pyongyang to a prison camp to survive on frogs and grass without even an explanation.
Kang’s story is truly terrifying and at the same time an interesting and rare glimpse inside North Korean prison camps. Some of these camps are claimed to be closed today due to international pressure. But sure enough still thousands of Koreans are suffering prisoned into same kind of camps.
Aquariums of Pyongyang is available online e.g from Play