A rare, chilling glimpse inside the totalitarian regime of North
Korea.Kim's tragic tale of his six-year imprisonment and
death-defying escape was transcribed and translated by Suk-Young
(Theater and Dance/Univ. of California, Santa Barbara), who met the
author at a human-rights conference at Cornell University in 2004.
Gracefully recounted without embellishment, Kim's story is an
example of the profound inhumanity and absurdity of the Communist
dictatorship of Kim Il-sung and son Kim Jong-il. Born in 1950, Kim
was sent to an orphanage in Pyongyang and was eventually adopted,
at age nine, by a powerful couple in the Korean Workers' Party who
eagerly answered the call by the Great Leader to shelter the
orphans of the civil war. Only much later, after distinguishing
himself in military school and as a trader in foreign currency, did
Kim learn that his real mother had purposefully placed him in the
orphanage to disguise the fact that Kim's father had been executed
as a spy for the Americans during the Korean War. A routine check
of his background for promotion revealed the truth of his
parentage, and Kim, despite his exemplary career and lifelong
loyalty to his country, was hauled away from his wife and children
in 1993. He was incarcerated in the slave-labor coal mines of Camp
Nos. 14 and 18, within the kwanliso system that housed thousands of
prisoners in secluded areas of North Korea. Slow starvation, hard
labor and extreme conditions meant certain death. Realizing that he
had nothing to lose, he escaped by hiding in one of the coal cars
on the train heading north. The tales of his subsequent perilous
journey to the Chinese border and flight to Mongolia are
astonishing.Thanks to Kim's courageous testimony, as the translator
notes in an excellent contextual introduction, knowledge of these
camps has been exposed to the outside world. (Kirkus Reviews)
Kim Yong shares his harrowing account of life in a labor camp--a
singularly despairing form of torture carried out by the secret
state. Although it is known that gulags exist in North Korea,
little information is available about their organization and
conduct, for prisoners rarely escape both incarceration and the
country alive. "Long Road Home" shares the remarkable story of one
such survivor, a former military official who spent six years in a
gulag and experienced firsthand the brutality of an unconscionable
As a lieutenant colonel in the North Korean army, Kim Yong
enjoyed unprecedented privilege in a society that closely monitored
its citizens. He owned an imported car and drove it freely
throughout the country. He also encountered corruption at all
levels, whether among party officials or Japanese trade partners,
and took note of the illicit benefits that were awarded to some and
cruelly denied to others.
When accusations of treason stripped Kim Yong of his position,
the loose distinction between those who prosper and those who
suffer under Kim Jong-il became painfully clear. Kim Yong was
thrown into a world of violence and terror, condemned to camp No.
14 in Hamkyeong province, North Korea's most notorious labor camp.
As he worked a constant shift 2,400 feet underground, daylight
became Kim's new luxury; as the months wore on, he became
intimately acquainted with political prisoners, subhuman camp
guards, and an apocalyptic famine that killed millions.
After years of meticulous planning, and with the help of old
friends, Kim escaped and came to the United States via China,
Mongolia, and South Korea. Presented here for the first time in its
entirety, his story not only testifies to the atrocities being
committed behind North Korea's wall of silence, but it also
illuminates the daily struggle to maintain dignity and integrity in
the face of unbelievable odds. Like the work of Solzhenitsyn, this
rare portrait tells a story of resilience as it reveals the dark
forms of oppression, torture, and ideological terror at work in our
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