Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was another book club selection. I wouldn’t have chosen this on my own, but I definitely found value in the book and content. I’m glad that I read it.

This book tells the stories of various refugees from North Korea(they are considered traitors by their country). The book aims to give details about what life is like in North Korea for ordinary people.

I found it slow going at first – I think this has to do more with the distant, newspaper-writing style that the author uses (she is a journalist, after all). But about half-way through, I was definitely drawn in and read it much more quickly.

The stories are interesting and heart-breaking and it is easy to see why Kim Il-sung (and now his son, Kim Jong-il) was so successful at keeping the country from revolting against the horrible conditions and the greed and warmongering of their leaders. In a way, it is genius (albeit evil).

Towards the end, as it shared the stories of how people fled over the border and the treatment they got from their northern neighbors (China), it made me feel sad. At times, China just ignored them. Other times, they deported them back to North Korea in some sort of political face-saving move. And other times they exploited them.

It reminds me of the illegal immigration issue that the United States is trying to deal with. I hope that we can work on it with much more compassion and mercy than our Chinese counterparts have done and are doing.

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