Posted by: koolwine | January 29, 2011

North Korea: Jia

A young North Korean orphan becomes a successful dancer in Pyongyang, but after she discloses the truth about her family she is forced to flee across the Chinese border to avoid imprisonment.

Country Focus: North Korea (Choson in Korean)

Jia: A Novel of North Korea
Hyejin Kim
Midnight Editions, 2007.  246 pgs.

Acclaim: “the first novel about present day North Korea to be published in English”

Ten years before Hyejin Kim wrote Jia, she didn’t even acknowledge that there was a North Korea:

“To me, there was just one Korea.  My upbringing was strictly anti-North Korea, and discussion of North Korea was shunned.  I had never thought of North Korea as a real country and North Koreans as real human beings.  In comics and cartoons, North Koreans had red faces or bony features and their leaders were all monsters.  Every year, on the anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, I had to hand in an essay and a painting reviling North Korea.”

A year spent living in China changed Kim’s attitude.  On a bus trip near the North Korean border, she happened to share a seat with a North Korean woman who had fled her homeland two years prior.  The two spent the long ride chatting.  Kim was so moved by her new friend’s story that she interviewed other North Korean refugees and the activists who aid them.  Jia is a fictional story born out of those people’s experiences.

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