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Why This Book Matters:

Nothing to Envy provides insight into North Korea through some of its defectors and what their lives were like under the three dictators.

The Big Takeaways:

  1. When the Americans decided to divide the Korean peninsula in half, it led to the Korean war barely five years later.
    1. If Many countries joined the war, but nothing was accomplished as millions of people lost their lives and the border between the two Koreas had not moved.
  2. The lives of North Korean citizens are dictated by the strict regime that continues to hold power today.
    1. In addition, North Koreans are afraid to go against the regime due to fear of what the government will do to them and their families.
  3. Kim Il-sung became a cult personality figure in North Korean society.
    1. After his death due to a heart attack, he was treated as though he was a high-profile religious figure.
  4. As society collapsed, Kim Jong-il allowed foreign assistance to enter the country as he began to legitimize the black markets.
    1. When he barred his own country’s currency, he caused the country to collapse into famine and volatility.
  5. Defectors trying to make it to South Korea would first cross the border into China and pay huge fees to smugglers.
    1. Defectors could face punishments ranging from serving in a labor camp to being killed.

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