When I first saw this photo of the Korean peninsula I was intrigued. How can a place so full of light be in such close proximity to a place cloaked in utter darkness. A friend and co-worker from Seoul, South Korea has told me of her life in a very modern city filled with technology, modern design and commerce. How could a country that shares a border and a common history be so different? And what must life be like in a place so dark, oppressed and isolated?
I read Barbara Demick’s book, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, 2 years ago and it still haunts me today. It tells of the everyday lives of several people in North Korea, their struggles to live, love and survive. As I watch the news and see the rising tension surrounding North Korea I think not of the threat this country and its unstable leader poses to the world but of the ordinary people who suffer everyday, silently, in the darkness. They are the forgotten people who are hidden behind the voices of a legacy of dictators. They are the ones that are oppressed, starving, waiting. This book reminds me that all conflict and war that we read, see and hear about through the lens of policy, government and the media have a vast array of people, ordinary people, that are suffering and forgotten amidst the rhetoric. This book brings a sense of the humanity of the North Korean people and their need for truth and light.
It is a North Korean phenomenon that many have observed. For lack of chairs or benches, the people sit for hours on their haunches, along the sides of roads, in parks, in the market. They stare straight ahead as though they are waiting – for a tram, maybe, or a passing car, a friend or a relative.Maybe they are waiting for nothing in particular, just waiting for something to change. – Barbara Demick, July 2010