These books had the most amount of impact on me emotionally and mentally when it comes to lives affected in isolated country by it’s regime, not to mention how much they inspired me.
1. In order to Live by Yeonmi Park
All the time while reading this book I was shockingly aware that all the mentioned events were happening while I was pursuing such different normal things in my life. It was hard to imagine that while I was celebrating my graduation someone so young was planning their escape from North Korea. The writer born in Hyesan fled N.Korea in 2007 when she was just a teenager and eventually made her way to South Korea. It was eye opening to read the extent of brain washing which is done by the regime. Imagine not knowing the meaning of the word ‘hobby’ or not knowing what is it like to answer without thinking in terms of right or wrong because the wrong answer can land one in jail.
Park being a target of human trafficking has to sell her mother to Chinese farmer in marriage on latter’s insistence to survive. The book has many more such shocking incidents described wherein it really makes one think why the media does not cover these stories? It was one of the many questions that am still asking.
2. Daughters of the Dragon by William Andreas
Written as a fiction mixed with facts the book sheds light on the history of comfort women. It is an issue which is still being debated. It is a story of sisters from North Korea who are tricked by the Japanese into prostituting for their war generals. When the younger sister manages to escape to South Korea the society is not kind to her and she has to hide her past. Comfort women were thought to be traitors who worked out of choice and were denied all sorts of opportunities. In fact no one even wanted to acknowledge that they existed at all.
After persevering for decades they are finally heard even if in a whisper and media started writing about their plight and history. They have not received full justice. May be they never will. But more than anything they want their personal stories to be heard and accepted. The book reminds us how important stories are because every one of them carries a trace of time gone by which does not and should not be forgotten.
The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee
Hyeonseo has relatively comfortable life in North Korea. But on a visit to China where she manages to slip across Yalu river and to her uncle’s house in the city her fate changes in a second. Trying to survive on her own she changes her name. Earlier, her aunt and uncle give her a new name. Names become more like convenience than identity.
Although it’s not a heart wrenching struggle the book almost made me relieved that there are people who can manage to escape without falling into the human trafficking trap. The real struggle although for her comes while helping her mother and brother escape post her defection to South Korea. I marvel at her positivity and clarity while dealing with this.
The author does have a much deserved happy ending. She also answers one of the questions I have wondered about? Do these people want to go back to North Korea since integration in democratic South Korea can be such a difficult process?