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Nothing to Envy, Indeed

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea - Barbara Demick

If you thought that George Orwell's satires Animal Farm and 1984 are just works of fiction, think again. Look at a map and find North Korea. That's a present-day, real-life Animal Farm.

Barbara Demick's book, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, gives us a peek of a spot of hell here on Earth. Based mostly on interviews with 6 North Koreans who defected to South Korea and from the author's own experience, this book takes the reader into an often difficult read of how North Koreans are being lied to, brainwashed, imprisoned, starved, and killed by their own atheist, Communist government, while their dynastic dictators, the murderous Kims and their cronies continue to live in the lap of luxury. And yet, Communists and other leftists around the world continue to turn a blind eye to this evil. Well, maybe, not surprisingly.

A mother scrounging for edible weeds and tree bark to augment her family's meager diet. A teacher without a salary still being forced to work, just to see her students drop out one by one and never seeing them again, wiped out by starvation. People with stunted bodies and minds begging or even dropping dead on the streets. And the most perverse part of it is that the dictatorship tells them that they owe their lives to the "loving generosity" of Kim il Sung, Kim Jong il, Kimchi, Kim this, Kim that. And to even speak something bad about your situation or against the Kims can earn you a one trip ticket to the numerous gulags or prison camps scattered across the countryside. Paradise on earth, indeed.

What is common about the defectors' testimonies is the degree of resourcefulness that most North Koreans display just to survive. To survive, they have to break North Korean law. To survive, they sometimes steal. In North Korea's case, breaking the "law" to survive cannot be considered a crime anymore. With the North Korean atheist, Communist dictatorship itself deliberately starving its people so they don't have the physical strength to resist, breaking the "law" is not just imperative to survive; it is the right thing to do. The atheist Communists will eventually kill you through starvation or execution. The ordinary North Korean citizens are not the criminals; it is the dictatorship that is criminal, a gang of liars, thieves, and murderers.

The silver lining in this darkness is the stories of escape of North Korean defectors and their eventual resettlement in South Korea. The world which their government forcibly covered before from their eyes and their lives is now there to see and live in, with all the freedoms, opportunities, and lives that they were denied in the North.

I now include in my prayers people in countries which do not have basic freedoms like what we have, like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, etc. Freedoms that some people in free societies tend to take for granted, abuse, or even denigrate. Democratic societies are not perfect, but I am sure oppressed peoples around the world would glady trade their lot for one like ours.

I just hope that the world can come to an agreement and take action to help save North Koreans and take collective action not just to contain the illegitimate, lying, and murderous North Korean dictatorship, but actually put an end to it. The civilized world has a responsibility to protect. The regime will eventually fall. It is not a question of if; it is a matter of when.