Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nothing to Envy

I am really enjoying my Provo Book Club.  We meet monthly in the Provo Rec Center library and the Provo Public Library sends a leader who brings us book sets for each month, one book for each of us.  There are usually 9-12 people who meet each month and I love the diversity of life experience in the group as well as the great comments and being with fellow book lovers.  Yesterday we discussed "Nothing to Envy, Ordinary Lives in North Korea" by Barbara Demick.

This book was most unsettling.  I feel like I've been living in a fog and have been totally unaware of a great injustice.  This is not something that happened decades ago, it is happening now!  1984 actually existed in 1984 and continues on.  That blackened outlined country is North Korea.  The brighter dot is Pyongyang and the smaller dot is Chongjin and often times there is not electricity or water available.  Food is scarce, housing uncomfortable and often unavailable, and medical care sparse.  In 1945, when Korea was divided at the 38th parallel, the great division in lifestyle began.  South Korea glows with Seoul being the bright light.  North Korea is a place of misery and corrupt leadership.

The northern border is a river dividing North Korea from China and more and more North Koreans risk crossing that river into China.  Some travel north to Mongolia where the embassy will help them on to South Korea.  Others travel from China to other countries and eventually to Seoul or directly to Seoul with altered passports.  South Korea houses the refuges for a month helping them to make the big adjustment to a very different life style and also gives them $20,000 to help them start a new life.

This book was nominated for the National Book Award in 2010 and Barbara Demick writes beautifully as she intertwines the stories of several North Koreans who eventually make it out.  Their stories span decades as they live through the power going out, jobs disappearing, no food, and the deaths of family members along with being in a society which allows nothing of the outside world.  The stories told will break your heart and make you uncomfortable and wary.

Last evening, after book club in the afternoon, I planned on watching PBS and American Experience as it would be about 1964 and the difference that year made in the United States and history.  I turned 12 in 1964 and remember it well as it was also a time of great change for my family as we left the family farm in Idaho and moved to Arizona.  Immediately after American Experience,  Frontline, "Secret State of North Korea",  came on.  I sat mesmerized as what I had just read and discussed was visually presented.  Video, discreetly filmed, showed all the the book had shared to be real.  I wished that I had a way to contact all my fellow book clubbers, so that they could watch, too.

Since the book was written, Kim Jong-un has risen to power upon the death of his father, Kim Jong-il who followed the original leader, his father, Kim Il-sung.  This is a photo of Kim Jung-un with the military generals of his father.  Over 50 per cent have now been disposed.  Just recently he executed an uncle and aunt.  He has executed others.  He has rattled his nuclear saber over and over.  Things are not improving.  Dennis Rodman, what were you thinking?

1 comment:

RoeH said...

I may have to get that and read it. So sad. And scary.