Who is the little man in the elevator shoes?
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In Johnson’s story of this dark, violent regime, there is the rare beam of light and hope. It emanates from a character — an everyman — who somehow begins to doubt the omnipotence of the Great Leader, acts on his doubts and finds the courage to seek intimacy, which is defined so beautifully in the book as having someone — even just one someone — with whom you can share your truest thoughts. According to the author, human decency is nearly extinct in North Korea, destroyed by decades of deprivation and fear that have left the population unable to feel anything they aren’t told to feel.
We need to read this book to know our enemy and to realize once again how blessed we are in America, in the free world. One of the North Korean characters in it is terrified at the thought of escaping to America. “What will I eat?” she says. “I hear that Americans have to find their own food … Who will take care of us?”
The state-approved AP coverage of the public mourning of Kim Jong-il in 2011 was a revelation. Millions and millions of people seemed truly grief-stricken, sobbing in the streets, beyond consolation, bereft of their fatherly leader. That is what total isolation, information control, torture and brainwashing can do to a nation.
Johnson said he wrote his book for the people of North Korea, to tell their story and give voice to the silent screams coming from north of the 38th parallel.
Copyright © 2014 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.