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What to expect

The harrowing story of a woman who escaped famine and terror in North Korea, not once but twice.

‘A gripping, suspenseful and cathartic memoir that tells a story of pain and perseverance and makes the moral case for asylum.’ David Lammy MP

North Korea is an open-air prison from which there is no escape. Only a handful of men and women have succeeded.

Jihyun Park is one of these rare survivors. Twice she left the land of the ‘socialist miracle’ to flee famine and dictatorship.

By the age of 29 she had already witnessed a lifetime of suffering. Family members had died of starvation; her brother was beaten nearly to death by soldiers. Even smiling and laughing was discouraged.

The first time she ran, she was forced abandon her father on his deathbed – crossing the border under a hail of bullets. In China she was sold to a farmer, with whom she had a son, before being denounced and forcibly returned to North Korea.

Six months later guards abandoned her, injured, outside a prison camp. She recovered and returned China to seek her son, now six, before attempting to navigate the long, hard road through the Gobi Desert and into Mongolia.

Clear-eyed and resolute, Jihyun’s extraordinary story reveals a Korea far removed from the talk of nuclear weapons and economic sanctions. She remains sanguine despite the hardship. Recalling life’s tiny pleasures even at her darkest moments, she manages to instill her tale with incredible grace and humanity.

Beautifully written with South Korean compatriot Seh-lynn Chai, this compelling book offers a stark lesson in determination, and ultimately in the importance of asylum.

Critics Review

  • ‘A gripping, suspenseful and cathartic memoir that tells a story of pain and perseverance and makes the moral case for asylum.’ David Lammy MP

    ‘Extraordinary. … Elegantly written, reflective, wise, sad and at times almost unbearably painful.’ Marcel Theroux

    ‘A steely determination shines through Jihyun’s kindly face.’ Daily Mail

    ‘Jihyun Park is the first defector to seek political office outside the Korean peninsula.’ The Sun

    ‘Few people can lay claim to a life as remarkable as that of Jihyun Park.’ Manchester Evening News

    ‘A compelling and well-written account of life inside (and outside of) North Korea. Moving without being sentimental, comprehensive but never dry.’ Daniel Tudor, author of North Korea Confidential

    ‘A story of suffering, detention, fear and humiliation.’ The Hon Michael Kirby, former Chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry On Human Rights Violations in North Korea

    ‘Courage and sacrifice befall few. Jihyun is one of those few. This fascinating and shocking book allows us to stand with Jihyun and others like her.’ Lord David Alton, Chairman of the British-DPRK All-Party Parliamentary Group

    ‘A startling and brutal reminder of the horrific plight of North Koreans in China, particularly those who are forcibly repatriated. Jihyun narrates the heart-breaking account with such tender desperation that is nothing short of the enduring power of a mother’s unconditional love for her children.’ Sylvia Kim, Human Rights lawyer

    ‘Gripping. Strikes a good balance in offering colourful cultural details.’ Alice Fookes and Anna Souter, UN Women UK

    ‘What Park has done is extraordinarily brave, and rare. She is a survivor who fights to live a life of dignity. This is her story.’ Christine Chung, Senior Advisor to the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea

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