Thoughts on Kim Jong-il’s Death

Kim Jong-Il in August 2011

Originally I had intended to write about South Korea’s plan to put up a hundred-foot tall Christmas tree. North Korea was quite upset about this affront to their nation, declaring it to be tantamount to psychological warfare, and threatened that “unexpected consequences” would ensue if the tree went up. Where North Korea is concerned, almost all consequences are unexpected, so I found their threat convincing enough.

But a rather unexpected circumstance popped up on its own, a development more compelling to write about: Kim Jong-il died. I found out after work on the 18th; I had called my boss to talk shop on the walk home and as I was about to hang up she told me. We both sounded happy when we got off the phone with each other. I reflect that most people outside North Korea seem pretty happy about the news, though they may not proclaim it loudly. But the tone of the activity seems, on the whole, celebratory. Continue reading

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Nothing to Envy

By Michelle Trujillo

To be honest, it has not been very long since I decided to make North Korean human rights my goal, my devotion in life. I went to college thinking I would later become a psychologist and counsel young children. What I didn’t know was that several chance encounters would have me graduating college as a political science major fervent about bringing freedom to North Korea. I could tell you about all of these special encounters but today I’d like to focus on just one: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick.

Barbara Demick is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and has been interviewing North Korean refugees and defectors since 2001, when she moved to Seoul. During her stay in Korea, she has interviewed over a hundred defectors. Nothing to Envy follows the lives of six of those North Korean defectors, all from the same North Korean town but as different from one another as is possible. Continue reading