The Hard Road Out

Park, Jihyun/ Chai, Seh-Lynn/ Baldwin-Beneich, Sarah

The harrowing story of a woman who escaped famine and terror in North Korea, not once but twice.

North Korea is an open-air prison from which there is no escape. Only a handful of men and women have succeeded.

Jihyun Park is one of these rare survivors. Twice she left the land of the ‘socialist miracle’ to flee famine and dictatorship.

By the age of 29 she had already witnessed a lifetime of suffering. Family members had died of starvation; her brother was beaten nearly to death by soldiers. Even smiling and laughing was discouraged.

The first time she ran, she was forced abandon her father on his deathbed – crossing the border under a hail of bullets. In China she was sold to a farmer, with whom she had a son, before being denounced and forcibly returned to North Korea.

Six months later prison guards abandoned her, injured, outside a camp. She recovered and returned to China to seek her son, now six, before attempting to navigate the long, hard road through the Gobi Desert and into Mongolia.

Sober and free from pathos, this deeply personal story reveals a Korea far removed from the talk of nuclear weapons and economic sanctions. Jihyun gives us a detailed account of the lives of Family 256 which remains positive and hopeful despite all the hardships she’s endured. Recalling life’s tiny pleasures amidst terrible suffering, she manages to instil her tale with incredible grace and humanity.

This beautiful book offers a stark lesson in determination, and in the importance of asylum.