Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Told from the viewpoint of Barbara Demick, an American reporter, Nothing to Envy shows the lives of North Korean rebels during the reign of Kim il-Sung and Kim Jung-il, in which the nation was struck with a horrible famine. Throughout the book, Barbara Demick explores the most closed-off society in the world by telling the story of six individuals. The six individuals that this novel followed were those of the average to lower class, with the exception of Mrs. Song. These individuals included Mi-ran and her family, Doctor Kim, Kim-Hyung, and Oak-hee, Mrs. Song’s daughter. The main theme that Demick tried to convey in this novel was that in the presence of the harshest of conditions, people will stop at nothing to ensure their survival.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the above statement is Mrs. Song. Mrs. Song is a middle-class, pro-regime housewife, that strongly supports Kim il-Sung. She is brought into the story as a factory worker that works to support her family. She also picks out gossipers against the regime in her apartment while her husband, a government reporter, spreads propaganda. They are basically the perfect model citizens of North Korea. After the decline of the country, things started to change for Mrs. Song, for the worst. Her apartment started to lose vital utilities: plumbing, heating, and power. Throughout all of this adversity, Mrs. Song still believed in the leader of North Korea. Eventually, she became familiar with the death of the famines, because her husband and a few of her relatives passed away. After this, she decided that she had no reason to stay in North Korea. She left North Korea to live with her daughter who had previously defected. Mrs. Song shows that despite wholly believing in the system, she had to go against the government to ensure the survival of herself and her family, as it was her last resort.

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Another example of sacrificing things in order to survive is Dr. Kim. D…