I could not say more of this book; it is simply amazing and hard to put down. There is no way that I could make myself detached from it. I finished it on weekend and those two nights I immediately had nightmares about gulags.
Different from Nothing to envy that doesn’t focus on the ordinary lives of North Korea, this book tells the story of a boy in first-person narrative.Kang Chol-hwan was sent to Camp No. 15 (Yodok Concentration Camp) at the age of nine along with his grandmother, sister Mei-Woo, his uncle, and his father, due to the apparent crime committed in Japan by his grandfather, and they spent then years there before the release (Unluckily, his grandfather was sent to a much harsher place (Sunghori Concentration Camp), where almost none could survived nor be released).
There was roll-call at 5 a.m., and they were to perform various assigned duties. The nature of jobs were based on a rotation basis; including digging mines, farming, burying dead bodies and all kinds of energy-consuming labor works. Even the inexcusable ones in other districts of the camp had to do work that involved high exposure of radiation. Apart from strict rules and heavy workload, they also had to deal with starvation. In the case of Kang and his sister, they had to attend schooling until midday and then started to work. Kang’s family had gone through a hard time during their ten years in the camp.
It is a detailed memoir about the lives in the gulag. I particularly like the bit where the children nicknamed the evil “teachers” at the camp. I feel sorry for the sweet girl Mei-woo at the end, to deal with things on her own after her brother is gone.
Two books are fantastic and hopefully I will read some more books on North Korea in future.
Overall rating: 10/10