on June 4, 2003
You know, I read this book thinking wow, this must have been written way back in the post-war era. And as I read further and further, with tears welling up from the pain, I realized it wasn't post-war at all. It was modern. It was happening during the years I lived in South Korea. Soon Ok Li's pain was exquisite and the scars she carries with her must be excruciating reminders of life... But as I am reading more and more of the NK stories, what amazes me most is the strengh, courage and compassion that that reign supreme in these brave souls that risk everything and lose everything, just for a chance...
This was an amazing book of an unthinkable life and I thank her for writing so frankly about her experiences, helping the world to learn a little more about the people in a country and we really don't know.
on August 7, 2000
This book is a wake-up call to those of us in free nations: an icy bucket of water to help us open our eyes and appreciate the freedoms we have.
Soon Ok Lee was living the easy, ordered life of a Communist party worker in North Korea. She was able to travel some in her job as a procurer of goods. However, when one official requested more than his share, Soon Ok told him no, making an enemy for life, and an enemy that cost her the life she had known.
Set up on false charges, she was sent to prison camp. She was told at the gate to forget that she was human if she was to have any hope of survival. Her story is graphic in its details and shocking at the total lack of value given to human lives in North Korea.
Singled out for some of the worse treatment in the prison were people of one group: Christians. The so called "heaven people" (for it was illegal to mention God) were treated even worse than the general prison population. Soon Ok couldn't understand why these people refused to deny their God and save their lives. She was even more surprised that these believers would willingly take the punishment of others on themselves, sometimes even to the point of giving their lives for another prisoner.
Miraculously, Soon Ok survived the prison. She was released and returned home only to find that her husband had disappeared. With her son, she determined that she could no longer live in a country that promised equality for all people and then treated so many as "tailless animals."
This narrative goes quickly, but will stay with the reader, haunting with its descriptions and with the thought of what is still going on in North Korea.
May it drive us to prayer for those still under the boot of oppression in North Korea.
on April 7, 2003
Since I've recently been very interested in North Korea I bought this book as part of my own informal research. It is a very fast read and is mostly a series of horrific anecdotes; it concludes with the author adopting Christianity (which somehow seems to provide divine justification and compensation in the author's eyes for her years of misery). I *DO* acknowledge and understand the very real and *incredible* suffering of 100,000's of North Korean prisoners but this book seems rife with what can only be characterized as exaggeration and embellishment. Situations that are described are often reduced to stereotypical morality plays: the author endures trials that would fell a titan, surviving them with horrible and permanent bodily injuries that frequently seem to vanish by the next chapter. She cites knocked out teeth, numerous experiences of being partially paralyzed and lamed by injurious punishments, and apparently countless episodes of being knocked unconscious, but seems to repeatedly recuperate totally. The book's pencil sketches of the author during her imprisonment generally portray a spry visage that is inconsistent with the text. I have NO doubts that countless innocent victims DO suffer and die in North Korean prisons but the cause of exposing this situation and bringing that government to justice is not promoted by embellishment that can't help but call into question the credibility of the underlying situation. I say as kindly as I can that I can't help but wonder if such exaggeration isn't somehow cultural -- the curious can find laughably extreme rhetoric in the stories posted by the offical North Korean news agency (...); their own words speak terrifying volumes. I generally liked this book, but the reader is advised to bring a skeptical eye for the author's specific tales while at the same time hopefully absorbing the underlying tragic saga that is today's North Korea.
on November 21, 2003
This book opened my eyes about the true intentions behind the North Korean regime. This reclusive regime thought it could keep its political prisons secret to the world. However, thanks to such courageous survivors as Ms. Lee we now know what is really going on in the hermetic North.
Those interested in human justice must read this book.
on September 20, 2000
This book is amazing. The prison camp conditions and treatment of the prisoners described are something that is so difficult for the human mind to comprehend. The only thing that I can think of to compare it to would be the Holocaust under the Nazis. Somehow, however, the story described within has escaped the eyes of the West -- Soon Ok Li's experience is one among hundreds of thousands of others -- she was released in the early 1990's but since then nothing has changed inside NK. If anything, things have gotten worse -- and there has been no outcry from the rest of the world. If you are willing to be challenged this is a book for you -- but be warned, after reading it you will find it impossible to do nothing -- her story and those of others cry out for justice.
on July 19, 2002
This book was the most heart-wrenching book that I have ever read. I have bought a number of copies of it to send to legislators. They need to know what is happening in North Korea. I am a pacifist and do not believe in war generally or usually support the use of force to solve problems. But when I read this book, my opinion changed about North Korea. We, the human race, the US, the UN, or whatever, need to go in there and stop what is happening NOW... Read the accounts directly.. And cry.. you will need to cry... Buy this book, but dont read it less than four or five hours before you go to bed.. you wont be able to sleep. Not for children!
I was so moved by Ms. Lee's testimony that I have been writing letters to lawmakers here in the US about it. You should too...