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A Thousand Miles to Freedom: My Escape from North Korea (2012)

by Eunsun Kim

Other authors: Sebastien Falletti, David Tian (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1096186,389 (3.7)15
Eunsun Kim was born in North Korea, one of the most secretive and oppressive countries in the modern world. As a child Eunsun loved her country...despite her school field trips to public executions, daily self-criticism sessions, and the increasing gnaw of hunger as the country-wide famine escalated.By the time she was 11 years old, Eunsun's father and grandparents had died of starvation, and Eunsun was in danger of the same. Finally, her mother decided to escape North Korea with Eunsun and her sister, not knowing that they were embarking on a journey that would take them nine long years to complete. Before finally reaching South Korea and freedom, Eunsun and her family would live homeless, fall into the hands of Chinese human traffickers, survive a North Korean labor camp, and cross the deserts of Mongolia on foot.… (more)

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» See also 15 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
This is Eunsun Kim's brief recounting of her childhood in North Korea, escape through China, and life in South Korea. The book moves very quickly with few details, giving a casual reader what they want to know, but leaving an academic wanting.

As with all memoirs from North Koreans, there are many harrowing and depressing events. Kim starts the book off describing what she believed were her final days, starving to death in an apartment while her sister and mother visited a neighboring city to scavenge for food. For the first one-hundred pages, Kim discusses, albeit briefly, North Korea. She describes a trip to Pyongyang with her father who died of a starvation related illness, a few episodes in school, and her eventual dropping out due to the need to survive.

The second one-hundred pages discuss Kim's life in China. Kim, her mother, and her sister, end up in the hands of traffickers who turn them over to a cruel farmer near the North Korean border. They live under the constant threat of forced repatriation to North Korea. They also live under tremendous social and emotional pressure from the farmer and his family, which eventually causes them to leave for larger cities. During this time, Kim's teens and early twenties, she is still prevented from attending school and remains distant from Chinese culture and society.

While her sister stays behind with her family in China, Kim and her mother eventually reach South Korea where they go through a repatriation program. This is described in the final few chapters. An afterward gives details about Kim's current celebrity, which includes publishing her memoir in various languages and doing promotional tours that raise consciousness about the situation of North Koreans both in and out of the country.

Kim's book is a memoir. It is not intended to give tremendous insight or depth into the workings of North Korea. There is little political reflection; however, there is incredible emotional color in this piece of literature. As such, it is a valuable tool in the marketplace of ideas. ( )
  mvblair | Aug 9, 2020 |
Highly recommended. I learned so many things about sad life in North Korea. ( )
  KnivesBoone | Jul 29, 2016 |
I won this book and agreed to give it an honest review. I was so caught up in Eunsun Kim plight that I worried about her and the brave struggles of her family, since her father and her grandparents starved to death in their North Korean villages due to a famine that swept the country, The dictator's need to control his people and monitor all news about his country that would shame their regime. Escaping to China, the three women believe they could have a better life only to find mistreatment, but at least they had food, but could they live like this? ( )
  Linda.Bass | Mar 5, 2016 |
This memoir has a personal, almost conversational tone, but what a moving, heartbreaking, inspiring, fascinating story she has to tell. Eunsun Kim spent her early years happily enough in North Korea, and that was interesting in itself to read about, but then famine drove her family across the border into China and set them on a decade long journey--even taking them into Mongolia--before she, her sister, and her mother were able to finally settle in South Korea.

A Thousand Miles to Freedom paints a vivid picture of living on the edge in North Korea and then China. It's an intimate story about a part of the world that's hard to get information about, and that alone would draw me to the book. I read it in one sitting because it's not long and is incredibly gripping. ( )
  Jaylia3 | May 1, 2015 |
A beyond belief story of a family escaping the dictatorship of North Korea, with more hardship than any person should be able to take. I have briefly met Eunsun Kim, a lovely, soft spoken but determined girl, and the strength of this story comes from the ordinariness of its main characters. They could have been anyone, they were in no way activists fighting for a cause, they were only running to try to save their lives. Unfortunately the book is marred by the passionless language of he reteller Falletti and the lack of structure in the writing. This story deserves better treatment than it was given. ( )
  petterw | Oct 25, 2014 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eunsun Kimprimary authorall editionscalculated
Falletti, Sebastiensecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tian, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Falletti, SébastienAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Eunsun Kim was born in North Korea, one of the most secretive and oppressive countries in the modern world. As a child Eunsun loved her country...despite her school field trips to public executions, daily self-criticism sessions, and the increasing gnaw of hunger as the country-wide famine escalated.By the time she was 11 years old, Eunsun's father and grandparents had died of starvation, and Eunsun was in danger of the same. Finally, her mother decided to escape North Korea with Eunsun and her sister, not knowing that they were embarking on a journey that would take them nine long years to complete. Before finally reaching South Korea and freedom, Eunsun and her family would live homeless, fall into the hands of Chinese human traffickers, survive a North Korean labor camp, and cross the deserts of Mongolia on foot.

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