Marching Through Suffering
Loss and Survival in North Korea
Columbia University Press 2015
Amidst an atmosphere of hope on the Korean Peninsula over the past year, questions over the wellbeing of North Korea’s population have again come to global attention. But this is far from the first time that such a subject has been in the news, for ever since the catastrophic famine which affected the country from the mid-to-late 1990s, discussions of human rights abuses and malnutrition have been frequent.
Sandra Fahy’s Marching through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea (Columbia University Press, 2015) is based on interviews with survivors of that seminal and devastating moment in the DPRK’s recent history. Adding careful framing and contextualisation, and paying close attention to her interlocutors’ linguistic and expressive nuances, Fahy leads us into the lifeworlds of a wide range of North Koreans: parents and children, bureaucrats and farmers, soldiers, miners and students. The book’s account of the consequences of the disaster for community, political and economic life in North Korea is as important as it is chilling, and offers deep insight into a situation which should remain in the mind of anyone seeking to understand a changing Korea today.
Ed Pulford is a postdoctoral researcher at the Slavic-Eurasian Research Center, Hokkaido University. His research focuses on friendships and histories between the Chinese, Korean and Russian worlds, and northeast Asian indigenous groups.