Freedom from a Repressive Regime

Two Books about Life in North Korea

We know what we hear in the news about the latest actions of the North Korean government, but what do we know about the people living  under this regime?  Here are two books about living conditions in North Korea and the people who risked everything for a chance at a better life.

Escape From Camp 14










Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea

Barbara Demick

“Nothing to Envy” follows the lives of six North Koreans over fifteen years — a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the unchallenged rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, award-winning journalist Barbara Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today — an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects — average North Korean citizens — fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them. “Nothing to Envy” is a groundbreaking addition to the literature of totalitarianism and an eye-opening look at a closed world that is of increasing global importance.

From Goodreads

Escape from Camp 14

Blaine Harden

The only known escaped prisoner born and raised in a North Korean political prison, Shin Dong-hyuk’s first memory was of an execution that all inmates were forced to watch.  He was four years old.  Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are estimated to be enslaved in North Korean labor camps.  Taught only what was necessary to perform the jobs in the prison, Shin knew nothing of what was outside the electrified fence.  He did not know about the history, current events or geography of his own country let alone the world beyond.  What he did learn in the camp was how to live with constant hunger, filth, fear, abuse and mistrust.  Reporting on other prisoners was encouraged and friendships were impossible because everyone was a competitor for survival.  This twisted culture would lead to an act that would haunt him forever.  But through the kindness of two strangers; a cellmate he called Uncle, and a newcomer who gave the ultimate sacrifice, Shin felt the stirrings of hope, curiosity and free will that would trigger his break for freedom.

Find out more at Goodreads