Review of Dear Leader- Jand Jin-Sung – Translated by Shirley Lee

Posted: September 9, 2014 in autobiography, nonfiction, Review
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dear leader

Not much is known about life inside North Korea under the Communist Party regime. This is a first-hand account of how the totalitarian state is run, written by a former Party insider who defected.

It follows his early life as a doctor’s son, then rise through the ranks of the Party through to his service in the Literature Division. Then he returns home and has a good look at the lives of ordinary people and he begins to question the state’s ideas.

Sharing a forbidden foreign magazine with a friend who is also disillusioned, they are forced to flee when the magazine is accidentally left behind on a train. Knowing their families would be punished if they stay, they escape across the border to China on foot, hoping to reach South Korea and gain asylum. If found by the Chinese authorities they’ll be sent back, so their journey is perilous and nerve-wracking, with the kindness of strangers offering hope.

The stories of other refugees are shared, and bits of the hardships of North Korean life are shared. I was horrified for most of the book by the sufferings of   the people and the blindness of the regime’s leadership. The fate of female refugees in China was sobering and the courage and determination of returned refugees to escape again is immense. I was surprised by the cleverness of the Party regime in their diplomatic negotiating and hadn’t realised there was such a coldblooded, calculating method to their insane policies. The leadership of North Korea and reality are not on the same planet as each other and I’m so fortunate to live in New Zealand.


Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan


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