Author: Jang Jin-sung
Summary: This is a book, that if his name were to be revealed, could get him killed. Jin-sung was one of Pyongyang’s Elite, working for the Party in North Korea (also known as the DPRK) as an epic poet. He had a lot of access to sensitive material, and knew things that the brainwashed citizens of the DPRK did not know, and were not allowed to know, the penalty being death by execution.
It takes place during the famine of the 90’s, but he is well fed, and so is the Leader, whom he meets, at a secret meal, at a secret location, that takes trains, and boats to reach. He is awakened, at his parents apartment, which is a luxury, in Pyongyang, and he meets the soldiers to take him to the party by bicycle, which is also a luxury, because his is foreign, and brand new, as are his clothes.
His friend borrows a South Korean book, puts it in his bag, with a notebook, that Jin-sung signed out from the government office. Unfortunately, it gets left on a train, and found by the police, and the book should have never left the building due to the sensitive material. Jin-sung is interrogated, but he knows due to his elite status, they won’t execute him or send him to the infamous hard labour camps that day.
He has the money, the connections, and the knowledge to flee the country. The next day he says goodbye to his parents forever, goes through underground resources, gets travel cards (as you need permission to travel within North Korea) to take him to the border, and him and his friend flee. They also bring much to bribe guards with.
Once in China, it’s not easy, as they are wanted as murderer’s in North Korea, the news goes to China, and China doesn’t taken North Korean’s as refugee’s, they send them back to North Korea, where they are executed or sent to a labour camp. They must find another way to get to their destination, which is usually South Korea, where they are interrogated (so they are not found to be North Korean spies) and then given housing and a stipend until they can support themselves.
This book is thrilling, written very well, as he is a poet and writer, and very sad. It gives a different view of North Korea than many memoirs of those that have fled, because many of them have been poor, or young, and not Elite’s with the information he had. He gives out information that isn’t known to many other North Koreans, which is fascinating. It is gripping, and held my attention from start to finish. It reads like a thriller, but is true. It’s hard to believe something like this happened only a few years ago, in the world we live in.