I’ve been interested in understanding a little bit more about North Korea for a while — have read a couple of books about it that were both good (Pyongyang and North Korea: Another Country). Both were good, but very different — the first was a comic format about the author’s experiences, the 2nd was more of a historical view.
This book, by Barbara Demick, is a set of 6 oral histories of North Koreans who have defected over the last decade or so.
The writing I found a little bit dry — so it took me some time to get through — but the material is, of course, incredibly interesting and compelling. These people live lives that are unimaginable to me — I consider it a real privilege, not to mention incredibly humbling, to be able to read a bit of their remembered histories.
If you’re interested in the Hermit Kingdom, this is a view that’s worth adding.