This account of one man’s escape from the North Korean gulag is harrowing but important For outsiders, North Korea can seem less like a nation than a sick joke. What little information emerges from the world’s most secretive state is almost too disturbing to process. A communist monarchy and impoverished nuclear power that relies upon slave labour and levels of repression that even George Orwell would have struggled to invent: it’s as if Nineteen Eighty-Four was taken not as a critique but a blueprint. But for North Koreans, like abused children, the grim reality of the Kim family dynasty is all they know. Until recently, full accounts of life in this famine-riven dystopia were hard to come by.