By Chet Yarbrough
Nothing to Envy
By Barbara Demick Narrated by Karen White
Everything to hide, everything to lose, and “Nothing to Envy” summarizes Barbara Demick’s book about North Korea. That is the frightening prospect of North Korea’s policy regarding nuclear armament.
North Korea is dark because of a lack of infrastructure for power
Kim Jong-un’s rule of North Korea is founded on fear. Based on Demick’s characterization of the North Korean economy, Kim uses fear to control North Korean citizens. Kim presumes the same will work for control of North Korea’s position in the world.
President Trump understands the tool of fear but mistakenly believes Kim will change his behavior because of America’s superior wealth and power. Because fear is the only tool Kim possesses to stabilize North Korea’s government, North Korea will not abandon its quest for more nuclear weapons.
Demick pictures life in North Korea based on interviews and stories told by refugees and defectors. There is an inherent bias in recollections of those who flee as opposed to those who stay. These stories, though different in details, are too alike to be lies. Their recollections are a re-telling of George Orwell’s fictional world of “Animal Farm” and Joseph Stalin’s historical world in the U.S.S.R. Demick peels back the edge of a curtain that hides North Korea from the rest of the world.
Demick recounts the stories of Mrs. Song, Oak-hee, Mi-ran, and Jun-sang. Demick paints a picture of a gray country (because of little electricity) wracked by hunger and controlled by a dictator and his army. Demick reveals a country that faces a grim future.
Demick gives fear and anxiety a face with Mrs. Song’s story of her life as a rabid believer, self-deceiver, and follower of the “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong-il (Kim Jong-un’s father). Mrs. Song and her children survive North Korea’s worst famine in history, but her husband dies. Mrs. Song’s daughter Oak-hee tricks her mother into visiting China and then lures her to South Korea. Oak-hee shows Mrs. Song that life in North Korea is a shadow of what life can be.
Demick’s second story is told by Jun-sang and Mi-ran, two other North Korean defectors. Jun-sang and Mi-ran introduce romance into this gray world. Their courtship in North Korea is sweetly pictured in clandestine walks on dark nights with sparkling bright stars in a lightless city. Jun-sang is an engineering student at a prestigious North Korean school. Mi-ran is the daughter of a naturalized North Korean farmer who lived in what became South Korea after the Korean War.
Jun-sang and Mi-ran talked of everything but what became the most important thing in their lives, the dishonesty of their government, the unfair treatment of its people, and their growing alienation. Both defected at different times because they were afraid to reveal to each other their true feelings about life in their home country. Later, they meet in South Korea but as strangers that have grown into separate lives.
“Nothing to Envy” makes a listener believe North Korea’s government is destined to fail. Time and incident will cause its collapse.
President Trump only temporarily stopped displays of nuclear weaponization by North Korea. Obviously, Kim Jong-un is only acting in a play designed by Trump. It appears Trump’s play is out of Trump’s control.
Our President cannot say “you’re fired”. Kim Jong-un needs fear to govern his country. He believes fear is the only tool that will gain cooperation of the outside world.