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316 pages, Paperback
First published December 29, 2009
They don’t stop to think that in the middle of this black hole, in this bleak, dark country where millions have died of starvation, there is also love.
North Korea is not an undeveloped country; it is a country that has fallen out of the developed world.
The line along the 38th parallel would solidify into a 155-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide thicket of concertina wire, tank traps, trenches, embankments, moats, artillery pieces, and landmines.
...the strength of the regime came from its ability to isolate its own citizens completely.
The level of repression in North Korea was so great that no organized resistance could take root. Any antiregime activity would have terrible consequences for the protester, his immediate family, and all other known relatives. Under a system that sought to stamp out tainted blood for the generations, the punishment would extend to parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, niece, nephew, cousins.
It is axiomatic that one death is a tragedy, a thousand is a statistic. In order to get through the 1990s alive, one had to suppress any impulse to share food. To avoid going insane, one had to learn to stop caring.
By the end of 1998, the worst of the famine was over, not necessarily because anything had improved but, as Mrs. Song later surmised, because there were fewer mouths to feed.
By 1998, the UN estimated that 600,000 to 2 million died from starvation.
Guilt and shame are the common denominators among the North Korean defectors; many hate themselves for what they had to do to survive.
Up until that moment, a part of her had hoped that China would be just as poor as North Korea. She still wanted to believe that her country was the best place in the world. The beliefs she had cherished for a lifetime would be vindicated. But now she couldn’t deny what was staring her plainly in the face: dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.
North Korea remains the last bastion of undiluted communism in the world.