NOTHING TO ENVY:
Ordinary Lives in North Korea.
By Barbara Demick.
Spiegel & Grau.
314 pp. $24
There is no shortage of books on North Korea. Thanks to its nuclear ambitions, it attracts a surprising amount of attention for a country whose population and economy are roughly the same size as Ghana’s. But little is said about average North Koreans. They come across as faceless people who obediently follow the orders of their Dear Leader, as KimJong Il is officially known, and his opaque inner circle. Nothing to Envy, by journalist Barbara Demick, rounds out the picture. Working in Seoul and Beijing as a Los Angeles Times correspondent, she interviewed numerous people who had fled North Korea, into which few foreigners are allowed. Defectors’ accounts of the country they left are susceptible to distortion, so Demick focused her interviews on people who came from the city of Chongjin, which enabled her to check their stories and experiences against eachother.
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Andrei Lankov is a professor of history at Kookmin University, in Seoul. He is the author of several books on North Korea, including North of the DMZ: Essays on Daily Life in North Korea (2007).more from this author >>