The Bonus Book of the Week is “Stars Between the Sun and the Moon, One Woman’s Life in North Korea and Escape to Freedom” by Lucia Jang and Susan McClelland, published in 2014.
After the Korean War, the Communist Party of North Korea oppressed business owners– who were considered evil capitalists, but praised farmers and peasants– who were considered virtuous; they served the Party.
Adults were forced to attend self-criticism meetings every Saturday morning. The meeting leaders punished them by making them stand up against the wall while others stared at them.
North Korean leader Kim Il-sung dictated that the traditional food eaten on August 15– his birthday– was rice cakes. However, the author’s family couldn’t afford to buy rice cakes. But– he also generously provided a pork ration for one person, to all households.
Jang was born in the early 1970’s. Her family was so poverty-stricken that she had no toys, no books, nothing. Finally, at seven years old when she began to attend school, she was thrilled to have a few possessions of her own: garments, pencils and a backpack. At school, the author and her classmates praised the “great father and eternal president” every morning. Every one of them had his photo of him on their wall at home.
Around the time she started school, Jang and her mother went to a theater for the first time. They saw a movie written by their fearless leader, Kim il-sung. Of course, it ended happily because the peasants conquered the landlords.
During the months of May, September and October, teenagers were sent to the countryside to help with planting and harvesting. The author was literally starving because she lived with a host family or in a dorm where she got even less food than she did at home. But Jang accepted the fact that the nation’s leader and his son were fat because they needed the most energy to take care of the North Korean people.
Traditionally, Jang’s parents were to choose her spouse. Her marital value was greatly diminished because both of her parents had had (political) Party trouble. Nevertheless, having gotten pregnant, she broke tradition.
In July 1994 when Kim il-sung died, the nation got a ten-day mourning period. Jang grieved as though her own father had died.
Read the book to learn of the horrible experiences (which became cyclical after a while) of the author due to various factors, including the environment into which she was born, her culture, gender, lack of education and the circumstances of her generation; and what led to the radical change in her situation.