Synopses & Reviews
From the worlds most repressive state comes rare good news: the escape to freedom of a small number of its people. It is a crime to leave North Korea. Yet increasing numbers of North Koreans dare to flee. They go first to neighboring China, which rejects them as criminals, then on to Southeast Asia or Mongolia, and finally to South Korea, the United States, and other free countries. They travel along a secret route known as the new underground railroad.
With a journalists grasp of events and a novelists 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.
"Tales of escape from the brutal Kim dynasty moved former Wall Street Journal staffer Kirkpatrick to create this vivid account of North Koreans who dared to make the leap for liberty. The author writes that 'Sixty years of political oppression have not dulled North Koreans' appetite for freedom;' indeed, since 1953, roughly 24,000 of the 24 million people living in North Korea have fled to South Korea, Europe, or North America. The famine of the 1990s compelled many to seek food in China, where perhaps tens of thousands live in hiding or are married to Chinese nationals. But if caught and repatriated, they face 'persecution and severe punishment.' Meanwhile, corps of for-profit smugglers and humanitarian groups comprising dedicated Christian missionaries and Korean-Americans are quietly at work to lead people to safety: Helping Hands Korea, a group founded in 1996, used America's Underground Railroad, which funneled slaves from the South to the free North, as a model for their organization. In addition to her analysis of the political climate of the country and the international community's response to its plight, Kirkpatrick presents harrowing testimonies from dozens of North Korean refugees to produce a timely portrait of a people desperate for freedom Kim Cheol-woong, a classically trained pianist, remarked that 'One of the hardest things I have experienced since leaving North Korea is having to choose what to play.' (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
With the perfect, hypnotic flow of a consummate journalist, Melanie Kirkpatrick has created an encyclopedic, magnificently researched and reported portrait of the dramatic resistance to the slow-motion holocaust that is taking place in North Korea as you read this. Her account is as captivating as a thriller, but unlike a thriller it is morally compelling. What elevates it to the ranks of the finest books is the skill of its author and the selfless urgency of her appeal. Many a prize has been awarded to books not half as deserving.” Mark Helprin, Author of Winters Tale and A Soldier of the Great War
Escape from North Korea should be assigned reading for anyonepolicymaker, academic, or journalist alikewho 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 Koreas 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 worlds most persecuted people.” Roberta Cohen, Co-chair of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea
About the Author
Melanie Kirkpatrick is a journalist, writer, and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. She was deputy editor of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, where she was a longtime member of the editorial board and op-ed editor. She lives in rural Connecticut with her husband, Jack David.