Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea


By Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy is a remarkable view into North Korea, as seen through the lives of six ordinary citizens. The book follows their lives over fifteen years—a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and the devastation of a far-ranging famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Taking us into a landscape most of us have never before seen, Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today—an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, in which radio and television dials are welded to the one government station, and where displays of affection are punished; a police state where informants are rewarded and where an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life. Demick takes us deep inside the country, beyond the reach of government censors. Through meticulous and sensitive reporting, we see her six subjects—average North Korean citizens—fall in love, raise families, nurture ambitions, and struggle for survival. One by one, we experience the moments when they realize that their government has betrayed them.

About the Author

Barbara Demick has been interviewing North Koreans about their lives since 2001, when she moved to Seoul for the Los Angeles Times. Her reporting on North Korea won the Overseas Press Club award for human rights reporting, the Asia Society’s Osborne Eliott award and the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Award.

Before joining the Los Angeles Times, she was with the Philadelphia Inquirer as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. She lived in Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia and wrote a book about daily life, Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood. Her Sarajevo reporting won the George Polk Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer. She is currently the Los Angeles Times’ bureau chief in Beijing.

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What's Happening in North Korea

What’s Happening in North Korea

Monday, June 30, 3014, 7:00 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St NE

 Sarah Palmer, the Rescue Teams Manager for Liberty in North Korea, will present a history of North Korea, a personal look into the challenges the North Korean people face, as well as current changes happening inside the country. She will provide practical ways to support the North Korean people, as they overcome one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today. She will also discuss how we can stand with and support the people.

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Kimchi: A Korean Staple

Monday, August 11, 2014 6-7 pm and 7-8 pm
St. Isidore Catholic Church – 628 Diamond Ave NE (old school gymnasium/kitchen)

Join local chef Kathleen Schiefler as she provides a history of kimchi and explains the importance of Korea’s national dish. Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of different vegetables with a variety of seasonings and is traditionally allowed to ferment underground in jars for months at a time. Chef Schiefler will demonstrate how to prepare various types of kimchi so that you can make your own version at home. There will be samples for taste testing. Class size is limited and registration is required. Register at

Journey into Hermit Kingdom

Journey into the “Hermit Kingdom”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 7:00 pm
Main Library – 111 Library St. NE

North Korea recently lifted the ban for American travelers, but it is still not easy to get there. Once one arrives, the restrictions placed on tourists by the Party make for exasperating, yet surprisingly rewarding experiences. Dick Gauthier will take participants north of the 38th parallel, into the “Hermit Kingdom,” presenting recent history, the current political situation and an engaging firsthand glimpse into the everyday lives of North Korean people.

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