North Korea’s Solzhenitsyn


It was a dog-eared manuscript, 743 pages bound in string. But for Do Hee-youn, an activist campaigning for human rights in North Korea, it was nothing less than stunning, The New York Times reports:

In 2013, Mr. Do got hold of what he believed was the first manuscript by a living dissident writer in North Korea that had been smuggled out. Written in meticulous longhand on the coarse brown manuscript paper used in North Korea, the book — a collection of seven short stories — was a fierce indictment of life in the totalitarian North. The author wrote of living “like a machine that talked, a yoked human.”

Thanks to Mr. Do’s efforts, the book, “The Accusation,” written under the pseudonym Bandi (“Firefly” in Korean), has found audiences around the world. It has been translated into 18 languages and published in 20 countries.

“This is the debut of ‘North Korea’s Solzhenitsyn,’” said Kim Kwang-jin, a defector and researcher at the government-funded Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, the South Korean capital.

Bandi’s stories expose the many tyrannies North Koreans experience everyday, the North Korea Strategy Center’s Rob Lauler writes for Daily NK (a partner of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group):

The reader is informed that the stories were written around the time of Kim Il Sung’s death, right before the “Arduous March” began. As a result they are somewhat dated and may provide grist to the mill of accusations of distorting North Korea today, a country shaped by money and corruption rather than loyalty. The choice of publisher may not help. But in truth these stories contain deep truths about North Korean society, and add much to the growing literature on that country’s painful reality.


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