Based on hundreds of interviews with escaped North Koreans, the novel-like Nothing to Envy is a fascinating portrait of North Korea, a sociological investigation of how a totalitarian state operates and a love-story with an O. Henry like ending. Here is one stunning excerpt that describes a defector as she crosses over into China.
Dr. Kim staggered up the riverbank. her legs were numb, encased in frozen trousers. She made her way through the woods until the first light of dawn illuminated the outskirts of a small village.…
Dr. Kim looked down a dirt road that led to farmhouses. Most of them had walls around them with metal gates. She tried one; it turned out to be unlocked. She pushed it open and peered inside. On the ground she saw a small metal bowl with food. She looked closer – it was rice, white rice, mixed with scraps of meat. Dr. Kim couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a bowl of pure white rice. What was a bowl of rice doing there, just sitting out on the ground? She figured it out just before she heard the dog’s bark.
Up until that moment, a part of her had hoped that China would be just as poor as North Korea. She still wanted to believe that her country was the best place in the world. The beliefs she had cherished for a lifetime would be vindicated. But now she couldn’t deny what was staring her plain in the face; dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.
Highly recommended. I will say more in future posts.
Hat tip: Bryan Caplan.