With this compelling and unforgettable memoir based on her acclaimed TED Talk, which has over 10 million views, Hyeonseo Lee becomes one of the first female defectors from North Korea to share her story; like I Am Malala and Infidel, this is a narrative of sacrifice, survival, and extraordinary courage.
As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by the secretive and brutal communist regime created by dictator Kim Il-Sung and his successors (son Kim Jong-Il and grandson Kim Jong-Un). Although her privileged family background insulated her from the cruelest horrors of the regime, living near the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom. When the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told, “the best on the planet”?Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family. Rumours of her escape were spreading, and she and her family could incur the punishments of the government authorities—involving imprisonment, torture, and possible public execution—if she returned. Hyeonseo instead remained in China and rapidly learned Chinese in an effort to adapt and survive. This is the unique story not only of Hyeonseo’s escape from the darkness into the light, but also of her coming of age, education and the resolve she found to rebuild her life—not once, but twice—first in China, then in South Korea. Twelve years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to bring her mother and brother to South Korea, risking her own life in the process. Against the odds, she and her family survived one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable. Strong, brave and eloquent, this memoir is a triumph of her remarkable spirit.