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North Korean defector-writer`s best-selling book

Posted May. 31, 2014 04:50,   


North Korean poet and defector Jang Jin-sung`s poem book "Selling My Daughter for 100 Won" deals with the agony of North Korean residents living in pain and despair. The book was awarded the Rex Warner Literary Prize by Oxford University in 2012. Jang, who defected to South Korea in 2004, depicted in various writings the miserable state of North Korea`s reality under the Kim Il Sung dynasty.

Jang`s essay book "Dear Leader," which has been recently published in English, is attracting attention from the international community. The book, which will also be published in South Korea next month, has become one of the top-10 best-sellers in all English-speaking countries except North America. His contract for publishing 330,000 copies of the first edition – 230,000 in the U.S. and 100,000 in Britain – is the largest deal among Korean books published in English. Some 60 media outlets in 25 countries, including the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Economist, and the USA Today, NBC and CNN, have introduced Jang`s book and his stories.

Jang told me Friday that he had taken a literary approach to the tyranny of the North Korean regime worse than those of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong and the miserable lives of North Koreans. He defined North Korea as a "pseudo religious state" that has nothing but the leader`s egocentrism. He also denounced some South Korean pro-democracy activities who brag about fighting against the South Korean authoritarian regimes in the past but remain silent or defend the tyranny of the North`s much worse hereditary regime, calling them "hypocritical democrats."

About 27,000 North Koreans who risked their lives to escape the North and settled in the South have provided accounts of the "living hell" they had been through in the North, exposing the lies and hypocrisy of pro-North Korean forces in the South. They include Jang, Jung Sung-san, the director of musical "Yoduk Story," Kang Myung-do, a professor at Kyungmin University who is a relative of Kim Il Sung, and women panelists in Channel A`s talk show "I Am Coming to See You." In an article contributed to the Dong-A Ilbo in 2012, Jang wrote: "I am a progressivist with conscience. I despise the self-purported progressives who side with North Korea`s third-generation hereditary dictatorship and turn a blind eye to the North Korean human rights situation. Nowhere within our nation is in a more desperate need of democracy or human rights than in North Korea."

Editorial Writer Kwon Soon-hwal (shkwon@donga.com)