Book Review: “Nothing to Envy” by Barbara Demick

North Korea has been a communist closed state and I have been wondering what the ordinary lives of their citizens are.  After reading a well-known non-fiction called ‘Nothing to Envy’ by an American journalist, it does familiarize me with North Korea’s development and reveal those brutalities happened inside the territory, for instance, hard labour was used to punish the unpatriotic ones.  What even more spine-shivering is that people snubbed and didn’t have faith to each other, even to their family members through strict monitoring and frequent reporting to the Party.  Worse still, the lethal famine occurred in mid-1990s placed them into an awkward plight and constituted a menace to myriads of innocents lives.  Cruel though the fact was, being the breadwinners in the entire family, they still had to meekly accept it by leading a hand-to-mouth life through different means.  After a spate of mishaps, some of the North Koreans were trying to escape to South Korea or cross through the river to China, although being treated harshly, they still arrived to either of them save and sound.  

Commoners in both North and South Korea, wear the same traditional costumes in special occasions, and even have relatives in the other side, but still separated by the 38th parallel line due to ideological differences from 1950s to nowadays.  So pathetic the condition is that the government in the North is still mesmerised by the immediate feeling of rising superiority in recent nuclear development, yet ironically in fact, its strength is only a drop in the ocean.  Behind those high speed rockets are the heart-tearing scenic of starving population.  Heading towards modernization?  It will only if pigs fly and sun rises from the west.  What the original citizens urgently wish is just 3 simple meals a day, but how long do they have to wait for such a seemingly ‘basic item’ come true? ♦


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