In our international book club, we always try to read books from different parts of this world and usually quite enjoy discussing novels or non-fiction literature about parts of this world we haven't visited. This was the reason, we picked up this story. A journalist, Laura Ling, gets captured in North Korea and gets sentenced to twelve years of hard labour. Meanwhile, her sister Lisa, also a journalist in the States, tries to get her released. The book tells both sides, inside and outside of North Korea.
We expected to have more background information about North Korea, but too much name-dropping was going on, we had the feeling they wanted to show the world how important they are.
The whole team had been visiting China with a tourist visa, we thought they acted very irresponsible, naïve, the guide was crooked, they should have seen it, and one of their colleagues just disappeared and left them alone. During the whole time, they came up with excuses. There should have been fines placed on them when they returned. Many reporters are imprisoned who stick to the rules, they can't call on former presidents to get them out of their predicament.
We want to find a book by a North Korean defector.
Most of us had been excited about the topic but were hugely disappointed, we didn't learn anything new, had hoped for more insight.
The whole story, the whole recollection was very repetitive. Laura did not seem emotional enough about her captivity, she seemed very detached from the story, we would have thought that a journalist could write better and are of the opinion that they only wrote the book to make money. We missed dates, at times you were not sure who was where at what time, dates would have helped.
We were also shocked that journalists couldn't write a book that takes you in, especially on a subject like this and that you could get more information. And what about the people left behind? Names of the guards were mentioned, for example. Do they realize the consequences they will face? The question came up what the US had to pay or promise North Korea for their release. We also imagined that they would have been humble after such an experience and just shut up.
The only good part was that some of us said this is an opportunity to get more interested in stories about North Korea. E.g., the question was raised whether it is good to trade with nations who don't obey human rights. Of course, that is always a tough question, it has its pros and cons.
Our final impression was that here were two spoilt young Americans who have everything put in front of them on a silver platter. They can do whatever they want and God and the president will help. No realistic view of the world. If you don't respect the law, the law doesn't protect you anymore.
We discussed this in our book club in October 2012.