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Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor
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Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor

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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  101 ratings  ·  22 reviews
Kim Yong shares his harrowing account of life in a labor camp--a singularly despairing form of torture carried out by the secret state. Although it is known that gulags exist in North Korea, little information is available about their organization and conduct, for prisoners rarely escape both incarceration and the country alive. "Long Road Home" shares the remarkable story...more
Hardcover, 168 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Columbia University Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Rebekah
This book was incredible. I was compelled to read it in one sitting and highly recommend it.

A brief moment of comparison:

Escape from Camp 14 is a book I finished fairly recently. Although both of these individuals spent some time in Camp 14 (also in Camp 18 in Kim's case) they are very different. Shin grew up in Camp 14; Kim had spent most of his life living privileged and free in North Korea. Shin had no clue who Kim Il-sung or Kim Jung-il were; Kim was loyal to the point of despair. Both stor...more
Christine
This is a memoir told by a North Korean escapee who spent his early childhood in privilege, only to be suddenly pulled away and subjected to a labor camp, torture and other atrocities. And who survived. It is a particularly mesmerizing read if you are at all interested in contemporary North Korea. He pulls no punches in describing his life in the labor camps (and if he is pulling his punches, then wow).

The book is largely a transcription of his oral narrative and if you speak Korean you will ide...more
Debbie
When Kim Yong was three years old, his father was executed as a spy for the United States. The stigma of the father's guilt would forever limit his son's future, so Kim Yong's mother placed him in an orphanage for war orphans by giving him a false background. He was adopted by a high-ranking political official, entered the military, and eventually became a lieutenant colonel in the North Korean national security police. His job gave him unusual freedom of movement throughout the country, and he...more
Violet Crush
Kim was an ideal North Korean citizen. He had a high post in the government, made a lot of profit, worshiped their leader, put his country above his family and was basically living an ideal life with his wife and 2 kids. Everything was perfect, until it wasn't.

Kim was an orphan and war orphans had an advantage in North Korea as their parents gave their life serving the country. Family background played a very important role in North Korea and even the 2nd and 3rd generations had to pay for somet...more
Shawn
Compelling story, difficult to imagine, hard to forget. A reality so surreal you read it in a near stupor. The horrors of what he could relate is surpassed in my mind only by what he could not -- such as what happened to his wife, his children, even those who helped him see a freedom they no doubt never will. Heartrending. It's stories such as these that make novels like "The Orphan Master's Son" unforgivable. There are people living unfathomable lives. To endeavor to fictionalize and tell their...more
Valarie
An interesting perspective on the North Korean concentration camps, this time from a former member of the elite whose background had been hidden when his mother put him in an orphanage. I was especially touched by his mother's sacrifice in the hopes that her son would never suffer for his "anti-revolutionary background" (it's not a spoiler, that's obvious from the title). The only reason I took away a star is because the writing style vacillated so wildly - from flowery poems to straightforward...more
Shannon
Told in a matter-of-fact way, this is one man's account of life in North Korea. The author battles his way up from an orphanage to military school and onto a prestigious career full of devotion to the regime. However, when the government uncovers a flaw in his lineage, he is stripped of his honourable position and is sent to a gulag, presumably for the rest of his life. He has survived to tell his story, but his body and mind are scarred with trauma and guilt. Brutally honest, this is yet more e...more
Kenyon
I was a bit disappointed when the book ended-- I wanted more information, more detail. I still feel like I have questions about his whole ordeal. That being said, I really enjoyed this (quick) read on both prestige and prison in North Korea. I also recommend The Aquariums of Pyongyang and Nothing to Envy.
Christian
I got halfway through this book before putting it down, the first time. I wasn't enjoying the purple prose, the page-long paragraphs, the guarded narrative in which Yong Kim revealed he was somewhat of a bully but avoided revealing all the things he might have done as a lieutenant colonel in the DPRK's NSA. These omissions are glaring, if you know anything about defecting officer's stories, and the long soliloquies over ocean tides and night skies don't make up for it.

However, this is still an i...more
Terry
The Introduction to this book is written in such tortured, multisyllabic academicese that I felt like I was slogging uphill against a mudslide just to get through it. Feh. The book itself is heartwrenching, of course. It actually reminded me a little bit of the book I'm Perfect, You're Doomed. One believes that a certain group (Jehovah's Witnesses, North Koreans, what have you) secretly wishes to join in the big, capitalistic, secular party the Western world is having, and it's a bit of a jolt t...more
Suzanne Moore
This books tells about the atrocities faced daily by North Korean prisoners, through the first-hand experiences of a survivor. Yong Kim's life has certainly been full of ups and downs! When I say downs, I mean DOWNS!! As a war orphan, he was adopted by a high profile political family and had very privileged upbringing. As an adult he held the position of lieutenant colonel with the Korean National Security Police. When he was recommended for promotion his family background is researched, and he...more
Speedstar25
An excellent account on the rise and fall of Kim Yong. The writer describe in detail the life of this individual, on how he grew up as an orphan,entered the education system in North Korea,joined the military services and roses to the rank of a Lieutenant Colonel. The interesting twist of the story is his downfall from the limelight when a background check was conducted on him before his next promotion to higher rank.

He was imprisoned in one of the worst place in North Korea- Camp 14. In my own...more
Jenny
Wow, what a disturbing book. I knew it would not be a happy read, since it is the story of a North Korean Gulag survivor, but oh my. It was a quick read, less than 200 pages, about a man's rise and fall in North Korean society, which resulted in him being sent to the Gulag after it is discovered his father was accused of being a spy when he was just an infant. Despite the fact that YK had spent his life working for the NK government, he was arrested, tortured, and sent to two work camps to die t...more
Ken
Even though Kim Yong's story of survival in a North Korean gulag (two of them, actually) is without a doubt an intense read, I felt the story telling was a little incomplete and the writing just didn't flow in many places. It was an alright book, but I'd recommend Escape From Camp 14 or The Aquariums of Pyongyang over this.
Brian
A good read, and a fast one, too. Orphan grows up in North Korea, going from life of deprivation to privilege and then to absolute bottom. Interesting insights into not only North Korea, but human behavior. I was mostly intrigued by considering how people believe what they believe and how they behave based on belief; North Korea's extreme cult of personality and paranoia bring those beliefs and behaviors to the fore.

This personal account matter-of-factly describes brutal, bestial conditions in N...more
Mila
This was an excellent book, but not what I would call an easy read! This is not because of the book's length or language, but because of its context, which is deeply disturbing. The memoir follows a North Korean man, Kim Yong, through his life and eventual escape from the country, which is how he was able to tell his story. The book reveals a very good account of North Korean life and provides a look at the many different aspects of life under the country's regime. This is a great memoir if you...more
Lindsay
The content is incredibly interesting - Kim is one of two known survivors of Camp 14 (The other is Shin Dong-Hyuk of Escape From Camp 14). I would recommend this book if you are interested in North Korea. However, it is not well written and there are many noticeable errors in grammar throughout the book. It is certainly not a literary masterpiece. It does, however, reveal much about the North Korean regime, and therefore still worth reading.
Tj Flair
Wow. Reading The Aquariums of Pyongyang, Escape from Camp 14, This is Paradise, half of Nothing to Envy (still reading), and now Long Road Home, has been a unforgettable experience. Long Road Home is probably my favorite so far.

Despite what another reviewer may have said, this book was written very well. You might almost believe the is a fiction novel if you don't have any background knowledge on NK. Anyways, its a good read.
Canice
This is amazing, gripping tale. The only reason I gave it four stars rather than five is that while the writing is fine, it is not excellent. But a very, very worthwhile read. Note: the book was never released in paperback and lists at $32, so you may want to try the library.
Razvan T. Coloja
An interesting read, since the protagonist of the story was a middle-to-high official. It features the story of his downfall from a life accustomed to luxury in Pyongyang to the hellish environment of one of the most harsh labor camps in North Korea.
Sally
Appalling, ghastly account of the systematic, brutal starvation of North Korean public by their heartless, inhuman government. Equal to or worse than the Nazi's brutality. Unimaginable, but true.
Madi Genz
Terrifying to know the struggles North Koreans face, but also enlightening.
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