Stars between the Sun and Moon: One Woman’s Life in North Korea and Escape to Freedom by Lucia Jang & Susan McLelland; The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee with David John; In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park with Maryanne Vollers - review by Jonathan Mirsky

Jonathan Mirsky

Crossing the Yalu

Stars between the Sun and Moon: One Woman’s Life in North Korea and Escape to Freedom

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W W Norton 288pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

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William Collins 304pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom

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Fig Tree 273pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

Here are three chilling but revealing books about North Korea and the perils of escaping from it. Lucia Jang surprised me by making plain that even after decades of brainwashing by the ruling Kim dynasty, ordinary Koreans remain traditional and superstitious in their habits and beliefs. But the cruelty of the North Korean regime is always apparent – as, to a lesser extent, is that of China, the country across the river in which Jang spent much of her early adulthood.

Her book’s title is a little misleading, however, since the story of Jang’s final flight from China to freedom is confined to the last three pages. How Jang eventually found her way to Canada is left unexplained. You might want to skip the first fifty or so pages, which are stuffed with a forty-something woman’s ‘memories’ of her time as a small child, including supposed recollections of looks and gestures. Most of the rest of the narrative, based on adult memories, is largely free of such licence.

And, once it gets going, what a story it is. Jang grew up in a poor farming family, which rarely had enough to eat and came close to starvation during the North Korean famine of the 1990s, in which millions died. The Jang family, like everyone else, was called upon

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