“The tunnels always ended with a ladder leading up to a rabbit hole. Jun Do’s men would vie to be the ones to slip out and wander South Korea for a while. They’d come back with stories of machines that handed out money and people who picked up dog shit and put it in bags. Jun Do never looked. He knew all the televisions were huge and there was all the rice you could eat. Yet he wanted no part of it — he was scared that if he saw it with his own eyes, his entire life would mean nothing. Stealing turnips from an old man who’d gone blind from hunger? That would have been for nothing. Sending another boy instead of himself to clean vats at the paint factory? For nothing.”
This is one of the nice leaps that Johnson makes — his capability to explain a plausible North Korean mindset, a way of thinking that can comprehend an outside world but still return to the inside. And, despite the fact that Johnson has done his research, despite the fact that he visited Pyongyang, this really does count as a feat of imagination.
January 29, 2012, 2:33pm Comments