What if the nightmare imagined by George Orwell in 1984 were real? What if you had to live in a country where radio dials were fixed to a single government station? Where the surroundings were entirely black-and-white except for the red lettering of the propaganda signs? Where you were required to keep a large portrait of the president on your living room wall and bow to it on national holidays? Where sexuality was repressed except for purposes of reproduction? Where spies like Orwell’s Thought Police studied your facial expressions during political rallies to make sure you were sincere not only in your speech but your thoughts?
This is a real place – the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea or North Korea. The Communist regime that has controlled the northern half of the Korean peninsula since 1945 might be the most totalitarian of modern world history.
George Polk Award and Robert F. Kennedy Award-Winning Journalist Barbara Demick’s NOTHING TO ENVY: Ordinary Lives in North Korea (Spiegel & Grau; On Sale December 29, 2009) offers a never-before-seen view of a country and society largely unknown to the rest of the world.