"Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea is a part-novelization (2009) of interviews with refugees from Chongjin, North Korea, written by Los Angeles Times journalist Barbara Demick. In 2010, the book was awarded the BBC Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. It was also a nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award in 2010.
The title comes from the children's theme song of the 1970 North Korean film We Have Nothing to Envy in the World (Korean: Sesang-e burom opsora 세상에 부럼 없어라).
Demick interviewed more than 100 defectors and chose to focus on Chongjin because it is likely to be more representative than the capital Pyongyang. Demick briefly discusses the examination of one of the female characters into a position of Kippumjo. The events covered include the famine of the 1990s, with the final chapters describing the route the main characters took to Seoul and then an epilogue describing the effects of the November 30th 2009 currency reform.
The six main characters/interviewees of the book are:
Mrs. Song - a pro-regime housewife, head of the block's inminban
Oak-Hee - Mrs. Song's rebellious, yet eventually enterprising, daughter
Mi-ran - daughter of a kaolin miner, a South Korean POW, so with bad songbun disqualifying her from advancement
Jun-sang - a student with Zainichi Korean ancestry and Mi-Ran's boyfriend in North Korea
Kim Hyuck - a street-boy whose father commits him to an orphanage
Dr. Kim - a doctor with relatives in China
An animated feature film based on the book and sharing the same title will be directed by Andy Glynne."
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