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Read Around the World October 2020 North Korea


Map can be found here.

For October we visited one of the most secretive countries in the world.

Facts about North Korea from Wikipedia

  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a country in East Asia constituting the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.
  • The country is bordered to the north by China and by Russia along the Amnok and Tumen rivers, and to the south by South Korea, with the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone separating the two.
  • Pyongyang is the country’s capital and largest city.
  • The name Korea derives from the name Goryeo (also spelled Koryŏ). The name Goryeo itself was first used by the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo (Koguryŏ) which was one of the great powers in East Asia during its time.
  • Some 80 percent of North Korea is composed of mountains and uplands, separated by deep and narrow valleys.
  • North Korea is ruled by the Kim dynasty, which in North Korea is referred to as the Mount Paektu Bloodline. It is a three-generation lineage descending from the country’s first leader, Kim Il-sung. Kim developed a cult of personality closely tied to the state philosophy of Juche, which was later passed on to his successors: his son Kim Jong-il and grandson Kim Jong-un.

I chose to visit North Korea via The Girl with Seven Names – Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee.

I am not usually a fan of non-fiction but this autobiography really captured and held my attention. I think I found it even more interesting as the author and myself are not far apart in terms of age yet my experiences growing up were vastly different from hers.

This synopsis from Goodreads tells you all you need to know about the book: As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by the secretive and brutal communist regime created by dictator Kim Il-Sung and his successors (son Kim Jong-Il and grandson Kim Jong-Un). Although her privileged family background insulated her from the cruelest horrors of the regime, living near the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom. When the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told, “the best on the planet”?Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family. Rumours of her escape were spreading, and she and her family could incur the punishments of the government authorities—involving imprisonment, torture, and possible public execution—if she returned. Hyeonseo instead remained in China and rapidly learned Chinese in an effort to adapt and survive. This is the unique story not only of Hyeonseo’s escape from the darkness into the light, but also of her coming of age, education and the resolve she found to rebuild her life—not once, but twice—first in China, then in South Korea. Twelve years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to bring her mother and brother to South Korea, risking her own life in the process. Against the odds, she and her family survived one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable. Strong, brave and eloquent, this memoir is a triumph of her remarkable spirit.

All I can add is that this book is written is a very accessible way, it is compelling reading and I believe it is an important read to enable those of us luckily enough to grow up in a democracy to understand how it is that the Kim dynasty have managed to suppress and control an entire country and also to understand why those same people have not yet rebelled.

Other readers visited North Korea in the following ways:

Currey on Litsy also visited via The Girl with Seven Names and like me rated this a Pick.

Did you join us on this trip? Let us know how you visited.

Next up for November Panama – Let us know how you intend to visit.

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