By Barbara Demick
The ironically named ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ – or ‘North Korea’ as it’s more commonly known – remains the most intriguing country on earth. Its ‘Dear Leader’ – Kim Jong-il – rules with an brand of ultra-hard communism, leaving little freedom for its people.
Nothing to Envy has been hailed as one of the best books on ‘ordinary’ life within country. By interviewing North Korean defectors – a pair of teenage lovers, a female doctor, a homeless boy and a factory worker who dedicated her life to Kim Il Sung and his ‘teachings’ – it builds an accurate and intriguing picture of the struggle to survive within the Hermit Kingdom.
It wasn’t always so bad; we learn how North Korea began its life with much promise for the communist dream. Indeed, during the early years it was richer and more developed than South Korea. But as time ticked on, cracks appeared in the system and North Korea became a paranoid, repressive and underdeveloped country; a nation that still can’t even offer a consistent supply of electricity or even feed its people. Food shortages and famines have been a problem for years, but instead of solving the issue, the NK government simply released new propaganda encouraging its comrades to eat less with their “Let’s eat two meals a day!” campaign.
With narrative that reads more like a novel than non-fiction, Nothing to Envy is a truly fascinating book for anyone interested in the secretive world of North Korea.
Also recommended: Pyongyang – A Journey in North Korea
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