Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

nothing to envy cover

안녕하세요.

Few people have any idea what goes on in North Korea—not just because they’re ignorant, but because it’s difficult to get any information on the topic. “Is Psy from North Korea?” No, no he’s not. The six people in Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea are. And they grew up very differently than the world-famous Gangnam Style oppa.

Nothing to Envy is a gripping read with information gathered from countless interviews and a huge amount of research. I read it within two days and stared at a wall for a long time when I finished it. These were real people and stories—these are real people and their real stories. Not only are the North Korean refugees in the story alive and free, but their friends and family and countless other North Koreans still live beyond the demilitarized border between North and South, beneath the suffocating cover of their government.

The eye-opening story that really gripped me was about a woman who loved her country. She was an absolute patriot, and loathed those who tried to escape. Yet her story interested me the most because it not only explained how her mind changed and she decided to escape, but because it showed why she believed the propaganda and supported North Korea and its methods in the first place—from a real North Korean’s view.

I highly recommend Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea to anyone interested in South or North Korea, East Asia, or a very good and very real book. 감사합니다.

 

Extra Reading:

New York Times

Review by Book Worm’s Head blog

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Confucius Lives Next Door

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confucius

 

While you may tell yourself that you’re only interested in South Korea, Confucius Lives Next Door by T. R. Reid is my number one book for learning about Asian (not just South Korean) culture. Maybe there’s a better book out there that I haven’t read yet, but this book really takes the cake. Or the kimchi.

 

Kimchi. Yum.

Kimchi. Yum. Awful attempt at making an image of kimchi spell the word kimchi. Not yum. My apologies…

 

Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West is primarily written about the author’s experience with the culture in Japan; however, as the author spent time living in places throughout Asia, including South Korea, I find this relatively inconsequential, because there’s a lot to be learned about Asian culture in general from this book. The book is a goldmine of information about the reasons why Asian culture is the way it is -and how America can benefit from it.

So who’s the incredibly wise guy whose social, economic, and cultural influence is still going strong throughout China, Japan, South Korea, etc.?

 

Confucius - The Greatest Thinker and Educator

This guy. Confucius – The Greatest Thinker and Educator

 

T. R. Reid knows quite a lot about Confucius, yet the book doesn’t talk about Confucius’ life. The book details Reid’s experience and afterthoughts on moving with his family to Asia. It explains how Confucianism is pervasive to Asian culture and how it has helped create not only the incredible “Economic Miracle” of rapidly modernizing and prospering Asian countries but also the lesser known but equally important “Social Miracle.” It even explores comparisons between Asia and the United States, and, though the book is more than a decade old, it remains useful to the reader seeking cultural understanding.

Pick up a copy of Confucius Lives Next Door and start understanding why family is so important in South Korea, why honorifics, formal language, bowing, deferral to elders, and general social stability are a common element to much of Asia. Yeah, yeah, Confucius is part of the reason. But the other reasons are discussed in the pages of T.R. Reid’s book. Read it. You won’t regret it.

And if you’re afraid it’ll be boring, Reid’s humorous yet cuttingly informative writing style will keep you interested to the very end.

 

Read some goodreads opinions.

Read another person’s review of T.R. Reid’s book (it’s not just me!).

Find out more about T.R. Reid on the man’s own site.

confucius 2

감사합니다!