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An extraordinary first person account of North Korea's famine of the 1990s,
This review is from: This is Paradise!: My North Korean Childhood (Paperback)
Although much has been written about North Korea, this book is a first person account by a North Korean who experienced its abuses firsthand. The author, Hyok Kang, born in 1986, was still in his early teens when the famine hit North Korea, but nonetheless his description will stick in the reader's mind long after finishing this book. His community shrunk from 4,000 to 2,000 during the famine, and he details the desperate tactics, including a few incidents of cannibalism, to which people resorted. Kang himself brags about his trick of stealing grains of rice from rats' nests. Most were not so lucky and experienced slow, agonizing deaths of starvation even though they were in a farming area.
Eventually the family escaped across the Chinese border, and after a torturous series of events, settled in South Korea. Even though this segment comprises only 1/8th of the book, it too sticks in the mind.
One would think that North Koreans would be free once they sneaked into China, but alas no. In fact, it's surprising how stringent the Chinese are in suppressing the flow of refugees from North Korea. One would expect Kang to be grateful to the South Korean government for resettling him and providing financial aid, but he is quite negative about South Korea. It appears that what Kang would really like is to resettle in China if somehow he could get proper documentation to do so.
The writing is a bit clunky in places, yet there is a spirit of sincerity that permeates the book. Kang is writing what he feels, not paying lip service to his rescuers or to South Korea. This is likely to become a classic in documenting the atrocities of the North Korean regime.