Nothing To Envy: North Korea
I’ve been catching up on my reading and one of the books was so compelling I felt the need to commend it to the TMV crowd.
The book is called Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea by Barbara Demick. We’ve all heard the stories out of North Korea about the famines or how the average North Korean is shorter than his South Korea brother, but this book takes a new tack that gives you a real insight into the nation.
The author chose to focus on one city in North Korea and tried to speak to as many people as possible from that city. She then chose several of them and relates their stories in the book, giving us a really personal kind of feeling for what they have gone through.
The subjects range from top elite members of the country to the bottom of the pile, they have true believers and silent rebels, adults and children. You find yourself wrapped up in the stories and rooting for them to succeed. Often you also find yourself saddened by the pain they have suffered and the losses the have endured.
The story is not entirely one sided either. It points out that during the 1960’s North Korea was far more economically stable than South Korea and that it was this that compelled many to move to that nation. It also points out that not everyone who has come to South Korea has found success or joy.
Perhaps one of the most moving stories though involves a doctor who escapes North Korea for China. She is just over the border and is looking for shelter. She opens a gate and notices a bowl on the ground with white rice and some meat in it. The bowl catches her attention because it has been so long since she had seen white rice, something of a luxury back home.
But she is confused as to why the bowl is on the ground until she hears a dog bark.
As she put it, this was when she realized that dogs in China eat better than doctors in North Korea.
The book is full of stories like this and is an amazing insight into a mysterious nation.
You can find it at B&N and other bookstores.