The Girl With Seven Names by Lee Hyeon-seo gives insight into life under the world’s most ruthless dictatorships, and the story of Lee Hyeon-Seo’s struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom. As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond North Korea, and when the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to question just how wonderful her home country was, though she was raised to believe it was the best country on Earth.
Aged 17, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be 12 years before she was reunited with her family.
She could not return, since rumours of her escape were spreading, and she and her family could incur the punishments of the government authorities – involving imprisonment, torture and possible public execution.
Hyeonseo instead remained in China and rapidly learned Chinese in an effort to adapt and survive. And 12 years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to spirit her mother and brother to South Korea on one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable.
Brooke Minotti ’19