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This is Paradise! Paperback – July 5, 2007
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Hyok Kang's story of a childhood spent in North Korea during the repressive regime of Kim Jong Il provides a rare window into the "most closed state in the world." Thirteen when he and his parents escaped to China in 1998, Hyok paints a mind-boggling picture of long school days followed by hours of farmwork, routine executions viewed by hundreds, and the "nocturnal disappearances" of friends and neighbors--the "unfaithful" who were sent away to penal colonies. It was only when faced with death by starvation that the family ultimately made the decision to escape. Since UN rations were siphoned off by party members, and leaves, grass, bark, and grasshoppers became the only available food for the masses, Hyok recalls that all but 8 or 9 of his 35 classmates had starved to death before he and his family fled. They lived like "hunted animals" for four years in China, always fearing deportation, until finally reaching South Korea, where Hyok was able to share, in both words and drawings, his remarkable saga. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
An engrossing picture of a nation that remains closed to the world, aptly described as the "Jurasic Park of communism''―SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
This is an extraordinary story: a simple, yet luminous, account of what it means to grow up in one of the world's little known and most oppressive dictatorships. This North Korean Harry Potter has the evils of tyranny to contend with and escape is the ha―Lisa Appignanesi
This is a rare and precious insight into the most obscure regime on earth through the startled and observant eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy who not only escaped but survived to tell this harrowing yet intriguing tale. The most penetrating account of life in North Korea I have ever read―Jon Snow
Kang recounts his life with the kind of deadpan detail that is all the more powerful for its quiet understatement . . . His capacity as a storyteller turns out to be masterly . . . The result is a small jewel of a book, one that moves you with compassion―MAIL ON SUNDAY
Top customer reviews
The horrors of daily life under the psychotic Kim dynasty comes to life in this volume. The authors did a good job bringing out detail and experience from a young subject, a North Korean refugee who was probably barely in his teens at the time the book was compiled. One certainly comes away with a very clear picture of the depressing reality of daily life, if one can call existence there a life.
Particularly stark are the stories of survival and what it takes just to keep from starving to death in a country that seems to have plenty of money to spend on its military and on nuclear weapons, but not enough resources to feed its own people. It's depressing to see in the book just how animalistic people become in a situation of famine like this, transforming as the authors show into selfishness and concern only for one's own survival in just eeking out enough calories to stay barely alive. This manifests itself to the extreme of parents abandoning children so they can keep themselves alive. Far from judging these poor souls, I found myself questions how I would act in a similar situation.
The book also presents evidence of the craven, wholesale theft of foreign food aid by North Korean party hacks. It also shows how inspectors are regularly fooled by the North Korean regime as they roam the country to verify food is getting where it should be going--and how the food is instantly removed out of the peoples' hands as soon as the inspectors leave.
Several other interesting tidbits emerge that have not been presented in other defector's tales on North Korea, including the fact that North Korean guards patrolling the Sino-North Korean border do not have live rounds in their guns at the demand of the Chinese government. This after North Korea soliders made raids into China for food that resulted in the shooting deaths of Chinese citizens. I haven't before read this in other books on North Korea. Also, the extent to which the famine has impacted the North Korean Army is presented here as well, something barely hinted at in other books I've read.
The strongest and most engrossing part of the book is the last half with the story of the young boy's family's escape to China. This is a truly harrowing account of desperation and will to survive, including the terrifying imprisonment of the father of the family by North Korean police due to an earlier foray into China for food. The young boy's long and dangerous journey out of China through Southeast Asia with a cousin, leaving his family behind in Manchuria, to try to obtain refuge in South Korea is also intriguing.
Much like other books I've read on the subject, this book validates the tremendous problem of refugee assimilation into South Korea. The South Koreans do a good job getting the hapless North Koreans out of danger and into South Korea. But they do a lousy job of helping them fit in. The South Korean government definitely needs to work with their people on being more tolerant and accepting of their long-suffering Korean siblings who make it to their shores.
While I would have preferred a more biographical structure than the somewhat disjointed first half of the book, it was nevertheless a very insightful book that was hard to put down. Definitely finds its place among the other books on life in North Korea that are increasingly being published.
more like U.S. needs a regional excuse to bolster a stronger mission in the area to offset the rise of China's new military force.
Also, very readable. Had difficulty putting it down.