Published by Columbia University Press
Published on May 1st 2009
Genres: Autobiography, Non-fiction
Kim Yong shares his harrowing account of life in a labor camp--a singularly despairing form of torture carried out by the secret state. Although it is known that gulags exist in North Korea, little information is available about their organization and conduct, for prisoners rarely escape both incarceration and the country alive. "Long Road Home" shares the remarkable story of one such survivor, a former military official who spent six years in a gulag and experienced firsthand the brutality of an unconscionable regime.
As a lieutenant colonel in the North Korean army, Kim Yong enjoyed unprecedented privilege in a society that closely monitored its citizens. He owned an imported car and drove it freely throughout the country. He also encountered corruption at all levels, whether among party officials or Japanese trade partners, and took note of the illicit benefits that were awarded to some and cruelly denied to others.
When accusations of treason stripped Kim Yong of his position, the loose distinction between those who prosper and those who suffer under Kim Jong-il became painfully clear. Kim Yong was thrown into a world of violence and terror, condemned to camp No. 14 in Hamkyeong province, North Korea's most notorious labor camp. As he worked a constant shift 2,400 feet underground, daylight became Kim's new luxury; as the months wore on, he became intimately acquainted with political prisoners, subhuman camp guards, and an apocalyptic famine that killed millions.
After years of meticulous planning, and with the help of old friends, Kim escaped and came to the United States via China, Mongolia, and South Korea. Presented here for the first time in its entirety, his story not only testifies to the atrocities being committed behind North Korea's wall of silence, but it also illuminates the daily struggle to maintain dignity and integrity in the face of unbelievable odds. Like the work of Solzhenitsyn, this rare portrait tells a story of resilience as it reveals the dark forms of oppression, torture, and ideological terror at work in our world today.
After reading Nothing to Envy, I decided to find other books that are related to lives in North Korea. I chose this book because it is a real account of someone who escaped from a labor camp. I have seen videos, where defectors talked about their personal stories about how they lived and escaped from North Korea, and those videos always leave me crying.
Long Road Home: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor is about Yong Kim’s life, and how he escaped from a labor camp in North Korea. There is very little information about the gulags in that country, so this is a very interesting read. This should be a required reading in school.
At first, we get a glimpse of the life Yong Kim used to have. When he was very young, his mother left him in an orphanage with a false identity. I learned that in the 1950s, being in an orphanage was a blessing. They were being treated well, as most of the kids in the orphanage were considered children of “war heroes”. Kim Il-sung was known to treat the war orphans as if they were his own children. Without knowledge of the past, Kim grew up, entered the military, and became a high ranking officer that earned foreign currency. He drove an imported car, and has knowledge of the inner workings of the government. He grew up privileged, but ended up in labor camp when he was accused of treason.
There were parts of his story that tore me up; especially when he was tortured endlessly. Imagine being in tremendous pain; pain that won’t even let you sleep. Putting you in isolated cage 2 by 2 feet wide, where you can’t even lie on your back. but had to keep standing amidst the pain. The rise and fall of Yong Kim inside the clasps on the North Korean government was both interesting as it is devastating.
This was quick read, but I wouldn’t say it was easy. I have to warn you that the horrors told in the book are very graphic, but I believe that it was necessary to tell the story accurately. If you are interested in North Korean life, you have to read this book. I wish it were longer, I wanted to know more. If you plan on reading this book, prepare yourself, as it will evoke unwanted emotions. You might even think that this is a work of fiction, but it made me feel horrible that this is real life. #
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