In My Hands Today…

Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor – Yong Kim, translated by Suk-Young Kim

Kim Yong shares his harrowing account of life in a labor camp–a singularly despairing form of torture carried out by the secret state. Although it is known that gulags exist in North Korea, little information is available about their organization and conduct, for prisoners rarely escape both incarceration and the country alive. Long Road Home shares the remarkable story of one such survivor, a former military official who spent six years in a gulag and experienced firsthand the brutality of an unconscionable regime.

As a lieutenant colonel in the North Korean army, Kim Yong enjoyed unprecedented privilege in a society that closely monitored its citizens. He owned an imported car and drove it freely throughout the country. He also encountered corruption at all levels, whether among party officials or Japanese trade partners, and took note of the illicit benefits that were awarded to some and cruelly denied to others.

When accusations of treason stripped Kim Yong of his position, the loose distinction between those who prosper and those who suffer under Kim Jong-il became painfully clear. Kim Yong was thrown into a world of violence and terror, condemned to camp No. 14 in Hamkyeong province, North Korea’s most notorious labor camp. As he worked a constant shift 2,400 feet underground, daylight became Kim’s new luxury; as the months wore on, he became intimately acquainted with political prisoners, subhuman camp guards, and an apocalyptic famine that killed millions.

After years of meticulous planning, and with the help of old friends, Kim escaped and came to the United States via China, Mongolia, and South Korea. Presented here for the first time in its entirety, his story not only testifies to the atrocities being committed behind North Korea’s wall of silence but also illuminates the daily struggle to maintain dignity and integrity in the face of unbelievable hardship. Like the work of Solzhenitsyn, this rare portrait tells a story of resilience as it reveals the dark forms of oppression, torture, and ideological terror at work in our world today.

In My Hands Today…

North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State – John Sweeney

North Korea is like no other tyranny on earth. It is Orwell’s 1984 made reality.

The regime controls the flow of information to its citizens, pouring relentless propaganda through omnipresent loud speakers. Free speech is an illusion: one word out of line and the gulag awaits. State spies are everywhere, ready to punish disloyalty and the slightest sign of discontent.

You must bow to Kim Il Sung, the Eternal Leader and to his son, Generalissimo Kim Jong Il. Worship the dead and then hail the living, the Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

North Koreans are told their home is the greatest nation on earth. Big Brother is always watching.

Posing as a university professor, award-winning BBC journalist John Sweeney travelled undercover to gain unprecedented access to the world’s most secret state. Drawing on his own experiences and his extensive interviews with defectors and other key witnesses, North Korea Undercover pulls back the curtain, providing a rare insight into life there today, examining the country’s troubled history and addressing important questions about its uncertain future.

Sweeney’s highly engaging, authoritative account illuminates the dark side of the Hermit Kingdom and challenges the West’s perception of this paranoid nationalist state.

In My Hands Today…

Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee – A Look Inside North Korea – Jang Jin-sung, translated by Shirley Lee

“The General will now enter the room.”

Everyone turns to stone. Not moving my head, I direct my eyes to a point halfway up the archway where Kim Jong-il’s face will soon appear.

As North Korea’s State Poet Laureate, Jang Jin-sung led a charmed life. With food provisions (even as the country suffered through its great famine), a travel pass, access to strictly censored information, and audiences with Kim Jong-il himself, his life in Pyongyang seemed safe and secure. But this privileged existence was about to be shattered. When a strictly forbidden magazine he lent to a friend goes missing, Jang Jin-sung must flee for his life.

Never before has a member of the elite described the inner workings of this totalitarian state and its propaganda machine. An astonishing expose told through the heart-stopping story of Jang Jin-sung’s escape to South Korea, Dear Leader is a rare and unprecedented insight into the world’s most secretive and repressive regime.

In My Hands Today…

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story – Hyeonseo Lee and David John

As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal totalitarian regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told “the best on the planet”?

Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family.

She could not return, since rumours of her escape were spreading, and she and her family could incur the punishments of the government authorities – involving imprisonment, torture, and possible public execution. Hyeonseo instead remained in China and rapidly learned Chinese in an effort to adapt and survive. Twelve years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to spirit her mother and brother to South Korea, on one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable.

This is the unique story not only of Hyeonseo’s escape from the darkness into the light, but also of her coming of age, education and the resolve she found to rebuild her life – not once, but twice – first in China, then in South Korea. Strong, brave and eloquent, this memoir is a triumph of her remarkable spirit.

In My Hands Today…

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty – Bradley K. Martin

Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader offers in-depth portraits of North Korea’s two ruthless and bizarrely Orwellian leaders, Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. Lifting North Korea’s curtain of self-imposed isolation, this book will take readers inside a society, that to a Westerner, will appear to be from another planet. Subsisting on a diet short on food grains and long on lies, North Koreans have been indoctrinated from birth to follow unquestioningly a father-son team of megalomaniacs.

To North Koreans, the Kims are more than just leaders. Kim Il-Sung is the country’s leading novelist, philosopher, historian, educator, designer, literary critic, architect, general, farmer, and ping-pong trainer. Radios are made so they can only be tuned to the official state frequency. “Newspapers” are filled with endless columns of Kim speeches and propaganda. And instead of Christmas, North Koreans celebrate Kim’s birthday–and he presents each child a present, just like Santa.

The regime that the Kim Dynasty has built remains technically at war with the United States nearly a half century after the armistice that halted actual fighting in the Korean War. This fascinating and complete history takes full advantage of a great deal of source material that has only recently become available (some from archives in Moscow and Beijing), and brings the reader up to the tensions of the current day. For as this book will explain, North Korea appears more and more to be the greatest threat among the Axis of Evil countries–with some defector testimony warning that Kim Jong-Il has enough chemical weapons to wipe out the entire population of South Korea.