Chaos under the Surface: Joseph Kim Recounts the Great Famine in North Korea

Joseph Kim and his new book 'Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America.' (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Asia Society Northern California partnered with the World Affairs Council on June 16, 2015 to host Joseph Kim, a North Korean refugee and, now, the author of a new memoir, Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America. Joseph survived prolonged periods of homelessness and near-starvation before escaping to China during North Korea’s Great Famine in the 1990’s. With the help of Christian churches and Western rescue workers, Joseph managed to survive in China and ultimately settled in the United States. Moderated by Daniel Sneider, Associate Director for Research, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University, Joseph spoke of lawlessness, corruption, and homelessness that lurk just beneath North Korea’s state-sponsored image of discipline and control. He also spoke movingly of losing his father to starvation; his mother to North Korean prison camps; and his sister who was sold for money into domestic slavery in China. Reflecting on how “search for food was [his] central purpose in North Korea” Joseph also recalled how after settling in the U.S. “it was difficult for me to find the reason, find new goals” that go beyond mere survival. He spoke of survivor’s guilt “when I throw away food like French fries,” his continuing search for his sister, and the young generation of North Koreans “who are becoming less loyal to the regime,” and who may be key to the regime’s eventual downfall.

Missed the program? You can view the complete footage here. (1 hr.)


For additional information regarding Joseph Kim and his life, please see the interview conducted with Asia Society New York’s Eric Fish HERE.