I am totally obsessed with reading stories from North Korean defectors. Words cannot adequately describe what it must be like to live there, but as an outsider reading these true accounts, I gain great lessons in human spirit, living through adversity, and am inspired by the courage and determination these people have.
These are my favourite books from North Korean defectors I’ve read, in no particular order:
Young women North Korean defectors:
A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea by Eunsun Kim
The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee
In Order To Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park
I’m putting these 3 books together as they are all by young women and tell similar tales of escaping over the river to China, and their lives in hiding while trying to make it to South Korea. They all make it. All with incomprehensible difficulties. Not to mention their struggles as free citizens as they try to integrate into a new society. All books are well written, easy to read, and incredibly insightful.
Dear Leader: North Korea’s senior propagandist exposes shocking truths behind the regime by Jin-sung Jang
This book is particularly insightful, coming from someone working right in the inside of the Propaganda and Agitation Department – Yes, that’s a real thing. I’m not very political, so I admit I found some of it difficult to read through the very detailed aspects of how North Korea works, although it was incredibly interesting, and comical if not for the fact this is actually happening right now to real people.
After reading several books by women defectors – most of who become part of China’s human trafficking industry – this was a much more pleasant read, but no less challenging in other ways. A long book – it took me 3 days to read!
North Korea Journal by Michael Palin
Obviously this is not a story from a defector, but I wanted to include it here anyway. Michael Palin does a travel documentary of North Korea, and he tells his story in this book. What I like is that instead of saying how bad everything is there, he is completely unassuming, and reports everything as he sees it. It’s a curious travel journal, and I’d really like to visit some day.
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I’ve read a few other books but these are my favourites. I’ll add more as I find more gems.
Another thing I took from all this is the Korean’s love of kimchi. I have never really like pickled food, but I am now enjoying adding kimchi to my food 😀