Gotta love Beijing!
Having just finished the book “This is Paradise” By North Korean escapee Hyok Kang, I felt like the book deserves some comments.
They say that a picture is worth more than a thousand words, but while we are bombarded with pictures of a hunger stricken Africa on a daily basis in TV (perhaps weekly or monthly now, as the news value has declined), they doesn’t exactly trigger the empathy the pictures rightly deserves. It is cynical as hell I know, but I do believe that I am far from the only one that has become somewhat immune to these kinds of news reports. What I certainly am not immune to however, is first hand narratives of how famine has impacted the lives of families, villages and entire populations. This book has just that. The book is clearly not written by a writer who’s life is dedicated to the art of storytelling and colorful language, but it delivers the message and that is all that this story needs.
When I read about the famine in China at the end of the 50′ies, in the book “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang, it did a big impression on me, but at the end I could still close the book and think “Ok, that was then, luckily it is different now”. This is impossible with this book. Famine is still a big issue in North Korea, where people have been driven to cannibalism and all sorts of other dark misfortunes because of … well highly irrational leadership.
At one point Hyok writes about some anti-capitalist propaganda comics that he and his friends was drawing:
“…we had imagined a grotesque competition being held in the United States where the winner was the one who ate the most. We had drawn several pages of the subject, which struck us as completely unlikely. What we didn’t know was that at that time such competitions really did exist in the western world.”
Well, he pretty much ruined my profound enjoyment of watching Glutton Bowl.
Since I on a few occasions have been standing on the Chinese shore of the Tumen river that separates China from North Korea, I have been wondering how life really must be on the other side in that closed country that no one knows much about. There are not many first hand narratives of the live in North Korea, but here is one that certainly is worth a read.
My main news source, and the only web site in North Korea http://www.naenara.kp seems to be down. What to do?
Until I read it there, I refuse to believe that Mr. Kim actually is suffering from pancreatic cancer. If anything, cancer should be suffering Kim Jong-il.