Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea is an attempt to pull back the veil on the most secretive and repressive nation in existence today. Over a five year period stationed in South Korea, journalist Barbara Demick researched and interviewed hundreds of North Korean Defectors. Through the lives of six individuals, she tells the stories of what it is like to live under the communist regime. Those familiar with Orwell’s classic 1984, will have a good idea of the form and function of the government.
Through these six defector’s lives, the reader gets a glimpse of the struggle most North Korean’s face on a daily basis, and especially through the famine years of the mid 1990’s. Mass starvation, government utopian propaganda, failed promises of food and care for the citizens, Gulag like work camps, and harsh political prisons should cause those of us who can ‘look on’ from the outside to grieve for, and pray for, those created in God’s image suffering in the physical, spiritual, and political darkness of North Korea.
Long after countless friends and family either perished from starvation or were shipped off to work camps never to return, each of these defectors somehow managed to scrounge, beg, borrow, and steal their way across a river into China. From there, they either had connections in South Korea by which they could arrange transport, or they trekked to Mongolia where they would be arrested and deported to South Korea. In South Korea, some fared very well, while others struggled to heal from past wounds or adjust to the new very modern life of South Korea.
We live in an age with short memories of international tragedies such as the wounds and scars of various communist regimes. People need to be aware of the dangers of dictatorships and the failed policies of all communist countries before they let their governments slide in the same direction.
*Note: The title of the book comes from a popular North Korean children’s propaganda song where they sing “We have nothing to envy in the world.”