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With a journalist’s grasp of events and a novelist’s ear for narrative, Melanie Kirkpatrick tells the story of the North Koreans’ quest for liberty. Travelers on the new underground railroad include women bound to Chinese men who purchased them as brides, defectors carrying state secrets, and POWs from the Korean War held captive in the North for more than half a century. Their conductors are brokers who are in it for the money as well as Christians who are in it to serve God. The Christians see their mission as the liberation of North Korea one person at a time.
Just as escaped slaves from the American South educated Americans about the evils of slavery, the North Korean fugitives are informing the world about the secretive country they fled. Escape from North Korea describes how they also are sowing the seeds for change within North Korea itself. Once they reach sanctuary, the escapees channel news back to those they left behind. In doing so, they are helping to open their information-starved homeland, exposing their countrymen to liberal ideas, and laying the intellectual groundwork for the transformation of the totalitarian regime that keeps their fellow citizens in chains.
“Escape from North Korea should be assigned reading for anyone—policymaker, academic, or journalist alike—who think they know anything about the Kim family dictatorship. Melanie Kirkpatrick shows how “the new Underground Railroad” is not only providing an escape route from the prison camp that is North Korea, but something even more important as well. She shows how that escape route, aided and expanded, can bring down North Korea’s despotic regime and free its entire people. Kirkpatrick combines exhaustive reporting with insightful analysis in a powerful and compelling tale of repression and freedom.” — John R. Bolton, Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
“A riveting, meticulously researched account of the harrowing journey North Koreans must take to reach freedom. Kirkpatrick describes in detail the secret network of safe houses, transit routes and brokers that have emerged in China and other countries to enable North Koreans to escape. Similar to the Underground Railroad in the United States that liberated slaves, the network achieves inspiring successes and tragic failures. The book will interest both the general public and serve as a powerful tool for policymakers, academics and advocates interested in lending support to one of the world’s most persecuted people.” — Roberta Cohen, Co-chair of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
Eventually he pulled himself to his feet and set off toward the nearest house. He knocked on the door, forced himself to smile and made his pitch to the woman who answered. She shook her head and shut the door. He continued to the next house and then the next, each time receiving the same reply: We can’t help you. After being turned away from a dozen houses, Joseph finally found a welcome. A man opened his door wide, invited him inside and gave him a meal. Joseph noticed that despite his generosity, the man did not appear to be any richer than the villagers who had turned him away. The man spoke Korean, and in the course of conversation he told Joseph that he was a Christian.
As Joseph was departing, the Good Samaritan advised him to walk along the bank of the Tumen River until he came to a bigger town, where, the Christian said, he would be more likely to find help. Joseph set off for the town, but night was falling and he stepped off the path and into the woods, looking for a dry place to lie down and rest. He slept for a few hours stretched out on the ground near a fire he lit with matches he fortunately had happened to bring with him. He reached the town the next afternoon and poked around until he discovered an abandoned house. The house became his home for the next three weeks. He hid there during the day, slept on the floor of a closet at night, and ventured outside in the morning and evening to beg for food. On one of his begging missions, he met an old woman who spoke Korean. If you need help, she said, go to a church. Church people help North Koreans.
“What’s a church?” Joseph asked.
“Look for a building with a cross on it,” the woman told him.
Author's Note vii
Introduction: "I Am a Man Among Men" 1
Part I Escape
1 Crossing the River 21
2 Look for a Building with a Cross on It 39
3 Defectors 55
Part II In Hiding
4 Brides for Sale 75
5 Half-and-Half Children 91
6 Siberia's Last Gulag 105
7 Old Soldiers 117
Part III Hunted
8 Hunted 137
9 Jesus on the Border 155
10 The Journey out of China 173
Part IV Stockholders
11 Let My People Go 191
12 Be the Voice 209
Part V Learning to be Free
13 Almost Safe 221
14 Unification Dumplings 239
15 Left Behind 253
Part VI The Future
16 Invading North Korea 275
17 Conclusion: One Free Korea 295
How to Help 315
Posted August 13, 2013
This fascinating and compelling narrative of the escaping of North Korrans from Kim Jong Un and his reign of terror will leave you amazed at thecourage of these people and the people (mostly Christians) who helped them. This book was named Book of the Year by World magazine for a reason. Get it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 7, 2013
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