Personal Introduction: From my early childhood, there was something that drew me to Korea. In elementary school, I had a Korean teacher whom I had a crush on as a six year old. Later in my youth my cousin married a Korean woman that kind of refreshed my affinity for Koreans. As a teen, I went to a bible camp with a girl that was half Korean and she was such a beautiful person inside and out it again reinforced my ideals of Koreans.
In the military I was trained as a Korean Linguist and spent five years living there. It was in Korea where I made a lot of Korean friends and began living a Korean lifestyle myself. It was also in Korea where I met my wife whom I have now lived in marriage with for over 35 years.
Even after I left Korea, I still read everything I could about Korea. I studied about the Korean War, Korean current affairs, Korean history and even everything I could find about the Koreans that were trapped North of the 35th Parallel since the cease fire that ended the fighting on the Korean peninsula.
I read the book ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang’, the story of Kang Chol-Hwan. It was about a family yanked out of their life and thrown in a gulag run by the North Korean regime for the alleged crimes of one family member. I knew life in North Korea was difficult, but to learn that whole extended families were thrown in gulags for three generations for family re-education was a crime that was beyond comprehension.
A few years later, while attending a class on Modern East Asian History, I read ‘Escape from Camp 14’ which reinforced what was written in The Aquariums of Pyongyang. By then, North Korea was being terrorized by the third generation of Kims. First was Kim Il-Sung until 1994; then, it was Kim Jong-Il until 2011; and finally the latest, Kim Jong-Un, the current demonic leader.
Under the Same Sky – Joseph Kim tells his story of living in North Korea. Born under the regime of Kim Jong-Il, Joseph was the son of a party member with a mid level job. During his early years, Joseph lived through a depression and the breakout of famine. He relates life with parents that would fall out of his life for periods of time and then re-enter while looking for work. He speaks of the death of his father, the selling of his sister to make money for food, and the eventual imprisonment of his mother. The story continues about an uncle who used him and his mother as a means to continue the uncle’s lifestyle
He speaks of life as an orphan having been left to his own wits to stay alive, and about being thrown into a work camp where they used youth as slave labor. He had reached a low where he made a daytime escape from North Korea across the frozen Tumen River into China. It was common knowledge that the North Korean guards would shoot anyone they saw trying to escape, yet he made it across within sight of a guard station.
What happened after he made his way into China, is amazing and his journey after that, is even more incredible.
If you expect me to give it all away, I won’t. All I’ll say is the book arrived yesterday in the mail and at 3:00 PM today I was finished reading it. I paid $15 for a hardback copy of this book and it will be on my bookshelves with the rest of my books on Korea for the rest of my life.
I give this book 100% backing as not only a good read, but a very important book to know what is still going on in North Korea.