Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad
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Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  245 ratings  ·  62 reviews
From the world's most repressive state comes rare good news: the escape to freedom of a small number of its people. It is a crime to leave North Korea. Yet increasing numbers of North Koreans dare to flee. They go first to neighboring China, which rejects them as criminals, then on to Southeast Asia or Mongolia, and finally to South Korea, the United States, and other free...more
Unknown Binding, 372 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Encounter Books
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Gaelen
This book has a lot of new and interesting information for those following the North Korean human rights crisis, but unfortunately, it's diminished by the author's overreaching glorification of religion and its role in the humanitarian crisis. Those helping refugees are always referred to as "Christians" rather than "aid workers," etc., and the book goes into some unnecessary digressions about some workers' religious history. The fact that the author is pushing an agenda is distracting and takes...more
Elle Thornton
This book is written with the skill and heart of a story-teller and equally so with the scholar's unshakable regard for facts. A former Wall Street Journal deputy editor who has spent years living in Asia, Kirkpatrick develops solid arguments for ways to change a country that is frozen in time. Because of her credentials and the story she tells so well, her ideas are certain to command the attention of policy makers. But beyond Washington and New York, many readers may be moved to act once they'...more
Scott
Of all the books I have read on North Korea, this was by far the worst. If you read only one book on North Korea, DO NOT read this one.
The idea of writing about N. Korean refugees is nothing new, what this book could have added was a detailed examination of the method and means of escape and those who help facilitate escape and transfer of refugees from North Korea/China to third countries and then onward to South Korea or elsewhere.
Unfortunately the book spends an inordinate amount of time tal...more
Bernie Gourley
Escape from North Korea is the most intriguing non-fiction book I’ve read in recent months. Kirkpatrick offers a glimpse into the operations of a modern-day underground railroad, one thats stories—sadly—are often no less chilling than those associated with its US Civil War namesake from 150 years ago.

The 17 chapters of this book are arranged into six parts. The organizational logic of the book takes the reader from the germ of an idea to flee all the way to settling into life in a free country,...more
Azabu
“Sixty years of political oppression have not dulled North Koreans’ appetite for freedom
Tales of flight from the brutal Kim dynasty moved former Wall Street Journal staffer Melanie Kirkpatrick to create a vivid album of North Koreans who dared to make a leap for freedom. Since 1953 about 24,000 of 24 million North Koreans have fled to South Korea. The famine of the 1990s compelled many North Koreans to look for food in China where perhaps tens of thousands live in hiding, or married to Chinese n...more
Liz
This book taught me so much about not just North Korea but the entire Korean Peninsula and the surrounding area. Prior to reading this book, I tended to avoid news about North Korea and it's nuclear program because the thought of nuclear war is nothing but depressing. Now I see beyond North Korea's fanatical family dictatorship to it's people and their serious oppression under the Kim Jong Un rule and being entire cut off from the modern world (and potential family members in South Korea) since...more
Kristie Robillard
I was expecting a hard hitting overview of North Korean policy, escapees stories of their lives in North Korea and what it takes for then to adapt to life in other parts of the world. Sadly, all this book is is a really strange but of religious propaganda with bits about North Korea mixed in. I'm going to try to return it today. I have never returned a booked. DO NOT BOTHER WITH THIS BOOK AT ALL! And if you do please don't pay any money for it!!! Just awful.
Rj
Writing about North Korea has become a popular subject. This weekend I picked up Melanie Kirkpatrick's Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia's Underground Railroad (New York: Encounter Books, 2012). Using the underground railroad of the 19th-century as an example and a map Kirkpatrick shows how North Korean's have escaped from North Korea through China to either South Korea or North America. The underground railroad like the 19th-century example is built primarily by Christian organi...more
Bill Andruszkiewicz
Very good insight to the reckless and brutal Kim family but was too preachy advocating for Christianity. At points seemed to be preaching to the reader rather than describing the plight of North Korean refugees.
Sarah
I was worried this book would be too gut-wrenching for me to handle. Fortunately, Kirkpatrick writes as a reporter and while there are many gruesome things mentioned (torture, being separated from family, death, concentration camps), none of it is recounted in such a way as to reduce me to a sobbing mess. She still raises compassion and concern for the North Korean people and points out what is being done and what is still undone in helping them.

Kirkpatrick does an excellent job of introducing h...more
Becky B
This is an incredibly well-researched, well-written, informative look at the plight of modern North Korean citizens, and their current passageways to freedom. It is one of the most harrowing modern human rights issues of today, but is hardly known. Kirkpatrick explores what is going on inside North Korea, what various refugees do to escape, and how different groups and individuals are working to get those refugees to freedom despite numerous difficulties.

A must read for anyone interested in just...more
Amber
This book give a decent history of North Korean refugees and tells many heart-wrenching stories of those fleeing the country. It opened my eyes to many of the problems people have in knowing how to leave, what to do when they decide to leave, the dangers, the political problems, the problems adapting, etc. However, the book would have you believe that the only people who help North Koreans are Christians. While I believe that a lot of Christians in China and South Korea do help people, the book...more
Mary Ann
I could not put this book down! My heart was moved by the stories of the suffering and courage of the people of North Korea and those who help them find freedom from the oppressive Kim regime.
Kristjan
Very good overview over the situation in North Korea and efforts to help North Koreans escape the repressive Pyongyang regime. I don't know if the collapse of the regime might happen the way it is forecast here, but it does seem like the best option. The one quibble I have is that it seems very questionable to assume that people in North Korea generally believe that the situation is better on the outside. This is based on polling of North Korean refugees in China, but does not account for bias....more
Alexandria Washington
I guess it's a really great light intro to the North Korean refugee crisis, but it's incredibly slow and obviously skewed towards the white-knight Christian demographic (Citing the Population Research Institute? Who is clearly skewed?). I knew the book would have religious overtones when I picked it up, but I didn't realize it would end up being a lengthy glorification of missionary work in Asia.

Disappointing for those looking to feed their nonfiction fix, satisfying if your only exposure to int...more
Lydiathekicker
My knowledge of North Korea prior to reading this book began with nuclear threats and ended with a bad dictator. Oh! But who knew how the people there are suffering? How they are trapped in their own land, starving for food, freedom, and God?

Thankfully, others knew. And others are helping these people survive and escape.

"They don't know what a Christian is; they don't even know what religion is. But they know to find a Christian, a cross, when they make it across the river. They know the peopl...more
Louise
I'd like to give this book an extra half-star just for the topic. I had no idea there were thousands of North Koreans who had escaped that oppressive regime through the secret machinations of a new Underground Railroad, run largely by Korean-American Christians. Anyone interested in the topic will find enough here to make this a worthy read. However, the book seemed rather pedantic and repetitive and was a bit difficult for me to get through. Boring really shouldn't be an adjective in my head wi...more
W. Don
As an American citizen, though I have had the privilege of travel a little (years ago) and catching a glimpse of how some in the rest of the world are forced to live, this book was a stark reminder that I am blessed indeed to have been born and raised in the United States. For me this is a sobering reminder of how fortunate I am, and how unfortunate far too many others in our world are. I have a renewed appreciation for the freedoms I far too often take for granted. I also have a strengthened an...more
Dimitar
This book is very insightful with regards to the realities in North Korea - particularly how repressive it is toward its people. Discussions seem to be very accurate, and though I have already been acquainted with most of the stories and realities in North Korea and in China with regards to North Koreans there, I still learned some new stories, perspectives, and realities. For example, I have never examined the allegedly positive relationship between length of stay in China and adaptability to t...more
Noah W
This has been one of the best books that I have read so far in 2013.

This book explain the process of North Koreans escaping to the outside world. It addresses the motivation to leave NK, the road to China, what the escapees face in China, and their assimilation into their new country.

North Korea: This book is fairly family friendly in its description of the atrocities within NK and the motivations for leaving.

Assimilation: It is interesting to learn about the integration process for the North K...more
Gary
Jan 05, 2013 Gary rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want an introduction to current situation in North Korea
Recommended to Gary by: Heard it on NOR's Talk of the Nation
In the 1800's, before the Civil War, there was an underground railroad which would bring slaves out of the South into Canada. Kirkpatrick talks about an underground railroad from North Korea, through China to various countries surrounding China. There are stories of North Koreans who have escaped, along with some who did not. Kirkpatrick goes through the conditions in North Korea, both the oppression and the economic and agricultural conditions there which are causing more North Koreans to consi...more
Jolene
This book had a few bits of new to me information, but nothing really ground breaking. I feel this book would be best for someone who is reading about North Korea for the very first time and wants a glossed over account of how North Koreans are treated by their own government. Two things really bothered me about this book. One was how the author made it sound like Christians are the only people willing to help North Koreans. The other was the fact that I was under the impression that this book w...more
Sophia Claire
This book was strange and terribly written. Read "Nothing to Envy" instead. I almost never give one star reviews. This gets one star. This is so awful, I simply couldn't finish it. It's really unfair that the North Korean refuges have to go through so much to escape from their homeland, only to be profiled in this ridiculous book. Give those poor people a break.
Heather
Kirkpatrick details the story, as much as she can, of those who escape from North Korea. How they do it, what motivates the escapees and their helpers, what happens after they escape. Her background as a journalist made for a quick, but not simple, read.
While there are mentions of failures--those who are repatriated and the consequences of such action--those are not the focus of the book. In that it reminded me of World War Z where the worst stories are lost. Dead men tell no tales, after all.
K...more
Jason H
While the topic was of great interest to me, as many reviewers have noted before me, the hidden agenda of the author was clearly to deify the Christian contingent of do-gooders involved in helping North Koreans. That agenda, which permeated almost every chapter, while ignorable in the beginning, eventually overwhelmed the message.

The information offered was interesting and compelling in-between pitches for Christianity, Bible quotations, and free advertising for Christian charities. Unfortunatel...more
Barbie N
I had just gotten done with a fluff book jag and decided to start alternating fiction and non-fiction. So I had just finished Divergent when I dove into this one. It was an adjustment. The author is a serious journalist and writes like one. It was tough going at first, but then I was glad that I endured. A very worthy read--well researched and well layered.
C.J. Martin
This book takes a look at the world's most repressive nation and gives a few heartbreaking stories of those trying to escape. It is inspiring to read how some people (in the underground railroad) give so much to save so few.

When I lived in Japan in the 90s, I heard the stories and rumors of North Koreans abducting Japanese citizens. I even went to a beach where one such abduction was said to have occurred. I remember going back to that States and hearing some people say that NK wouldn't do such...more
JT
Fairly poorly written, as she fails to keep a coherent narrative. She also only profiles Republicans that support North Korean refugees, rather than give a politically balanced perspective -- definitely showing the signs of writing for "The Wall Street Journal"
Kenny
Great description of the diverse people helping North Koreans escape; a lot of it happens after they escape from North Korea.
Shaina Sunwall
A good read for everyone- interested in North Korea or not!
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