Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

A Walled-In World; A Smuggled Manuscript Reveals the State of Life in North Korea

Newspaper article The Daily Mercury (Mackay, Australia)

A Walled-In World; A Smuggled Manuscript Reveals the State of Life in North Korea

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Tiffany

I CAN pinpoint almost to the day when my interest in North Korea began.

In September 1993, I attended the Taejon Expo in the central South Korean city of Daejeon and spent some time in Seoul.

I was fascinated by just how close the demilitarised zone was to the capital but more so by the fact that beyond the heavily fortified fences and walls you could look into this strange, closed-off country - which I knew very little about at the time.

Since then I have read with interest, and increasing sadness, about the plight of the North Korean people under the totalitarian dictatorship.

The recently released book The Accusation: Forbidden Stories From inside North Korea paints a powerful picture of the bleak life in the one-party nation based around the cult of the personality of Kim Il-sung and his family.

The book of seven stories was written by Bandi, which means "firefly" in Korean, and is a pseudonym for the writer who is still living in North Korea. The copy was written in secret and smuggled out of the country.

While the work is fictional, the characters in Bandi's stories are very real - they include a young mother living among the elite in Pyongyang whose son misbehaves during a political rally; a former Communist war hero who is deeply disillusioned by the intrusion of the Party into everything he holds dear; and a husband and father who is denied a travel permit and sneaks on to a train in order to visit his critically ill mother.

Dr Jiyoung Song, director, Migration and Border Policy at the Lowy Institute, based in Sydney, said that while Bandi's Accusation may sound shocking and sensational to many outsiders, for someone like herself who's been almost obsessively following North Korean affairs for her entire career, little written about North Korea is new.

It is little wonder that so many North Koreans risk their lives by trying to escape over the border into China, despite the many dangers that lurk on the Chinese side and the fate that awaits them if they are caught and returned.

Dr Song, the author of the book Human Rights Discourse in North Korea: Post-colonial, Marxist and Confucian Perspectives, said China and North Korea have a bilateral agreement to send back any illegal border-crossers. …

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