Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nothing to Envy - Book review

I mentioned here that over the Easter weekend I was reading Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick. The above photo (widely available online) is in this book. It contrasts the night lights of South Korea with the almost complete darkness of North Korea, where there is little or no electricity. The country has had no electricity since the early 1990s when the power plants failed. The one spot in North Korea with lights is the city of Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, the "showcase city" for any tourists who are allowed into the country.

This book was a fascinating read. The author describes it as an oral history, in which she weaves together the stories of six defectors from North Korea, all of whom are now living in South Korea. She interviewed them over a period of several years about their lives and how they came to their decisions to escape the communist regime in the north.

I didn't know much at all about how North and South Korea even came to exist so I found the history of what happened and the causes of the Korean War really interesting. And the lives of those included in the book were all quite different, which created a broad cross-sectional view of North Korean society.

The back of the book describes North Korean society as a "real life" version of George Orwell's 1984. The way the leaders of the communist regime have instilled complete loyalty among the citizens of North Korea was frightening to read about.

The idea of not having freedom of thought, speech or political and Christian belief was so completely foreign to me. This book was a great reminder of how blessed we are to live in a country where we can live openly as Christians. Although being a Christian may lead to ridicule from many of those around us in Australian society, at least it is not forbidden by law.

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