NR Digital

Out of the Gulag

by John R. Bolton
Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad, by Melanie Kirkpatrick (Encounter, 376 pp., $25.99)

North Korea’s continued existence is a blot on the consciences of the United States and other Free World nations. It is indeed “hell on earth,” as Melanie Kirkpatrick’s new book describes it, although few Washington political leaders or media commentators focus on it or do much to change it. This lucid and gripping book, however, might well prompt a revolution in how Americans see North Korea. It certainly should.

Not only does the ludicrously named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continue its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs unchecked, but the oppression and misery of its citizens remain unequalled. Not even Kim Jong Un’s recent hereditary accession to power as his family’s third Communist dictator has caused serious rethinking in our media. Instead, reporters have written about higher heels and hemlines for DPRK policewomen, Kim’s attendance at a performance of Walt Disney characters (pirated, of course), and the revelation that he has a wife as signs of impending change in the North. As always, the pundits focus on what Pyongyang wants rather than exploring the kinds of stories Kirkpatrick highlights, such as the newest Kim’s personal order clamping down on refugee escapes.

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