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A searing story of starvation and survival in North Korea, followed by a dramatic escape, rescue by activists and Christian missionaries, and success in the United States thanks to newfound faith and courage Inside the hidden and mysterious world of North Korea, Joseph Kim lived a young boy’s normal life until he was five. Then disaster struck: the first wave of the Great F A searing story of starvation and survival in North Korea, followed by a dramatic escape, rescue by activists and Christian missionaries, and success in the United States thanks to newfound faith and courage Inside the hidden and mysterious world of North Korea, Joseph Kim lived a young boy’s normal life until he was five. Then disaster struck: the first wave of the Great Famine, a long, terrible ordeal that killed millions, including his father, and sent others, like his mother and only sister, on desperate escape routes into China. Alone on the streets, Joseph learned to beg and steal. He had nothing but a street-hardened survival instinct. Finally, in desperation, he too crossed a frozen river to escape to China. There a kindly Christian woman took him in, kept him hidden from the authorities, and gave him hope. Soon, through an underground network of activists, he was spirited to the American consulate, and became one of just a handful of North Koreans to be brought to the U.S. as refugees. Joseph knew no English and had never been a good student. Yet the kindness of his foster family changed his life. He turned a new leaf, became a dedicated student, mastered English, and made it to college, where he is now thriving thanks to his faith and inner strength. Under the Same Sky is an unforgettable story of suffering and redemption.


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A searing story of starvation and survival in North Korea, followed by a dramatic escape, rescue by activists and Christian missionaries, and success in the United States thanks to newfound faith and courage Inside the hidden and mysterious world of North Korea, Joseph Kim lived a young boy’s normal life until he was five. Then disaster struck: the first wave of the Great F A searing story of starvation and survival in North Korea, followed by a dramatic escape, rescue by activists and Christian missionaries, and success in the United States thanks to newfound faith and courage Inside the hidden and mysterious world of North Korea, Joseph Kim lived a young boy’s normal life until he was five. Then disaster struck: the first wave of the Great Famine, a long, terrible ordeal that killed millions, including his father, and sent others, like his mother and only sister, on desperate escape routes into China. Alone on the streets, Joseph learned to beg and steal. He had nothing but a street-hardened survival instinct. Finally, in desperation, he too crossed a frozen river to escape to China. There a kindly Christian woman took him in, kept him hidden from the authorities, and gave him hope. Soon, through an underground network of activists, he was spirited to the American consulate, and became one of just a handful of North Koreans to be brought to the U.S. as refugees. Joseph knew no English and had never been a good student. Yet the kindness of his foster family changed his life. He turned a new leaf, became a dedicated student, mastered English, and made it to college, where he is now thriving thanks to his faith and inner strength. Under the Same Sky is an unforgettable story of suffering and redemption.

30 review for Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ✨️ Socially Awkward Trash Panda ✨️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest This showed up in one of the bags my friends and I have been exchanging with each other during quarantine, which turned out to be the perfect boon, because not only was it a perfect candidate for Pacific Islander/Asian Heritage month, I've also been on a bit of a North Korean-themed reading binge over the last month, starting with A KIM JONG-IL PRODUCTION, before segueing into THE GIRL WITH SEVEN NAMES, and finishing with A RIVER IN DARK Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest This showed up in one of the bags my friends and I have been exchanging with each other during quarantine, which turned out to be the perfect boon, because not only was it a perfect candidate for Pacific Islander/Asian Heritage month, I've also been on a bit of a North Korean-themed reading binge over the last month, starting with A KIM JONG-IL PRODUCTION, before segueing into THE GIRL WITH SEVEN NAMES, and finishing with A RIVER IN DARKNESS. If there is a unifying theme to these books, it is that unless you are very, very close to the inner-circle, scrounging out a living in North Korea is difficult to varying degrees. Hyeonseo Lee was actually relatively privileged, coming from a high songbung (North Korea's politically-based caste system), but Masaji Ishikawa, being half-Japanese, had a much tougher time being an immigrant in a place that is taught to be suspicious-- even hostile-- to foreigners. By contrast, Joseph Kim started as lower-middle-class and was actually homeless and begging in the streets during the worst years of poverty in North Korea (after the collapse of the Soviet Union), on the verge of starvation and stealing from market stalls. UNDER THE SKY is not an easy read because it's really sad. We follow Joseph Kim through all of his worst moments: the death of his father, the disappearance of his sister, being forced to steal and beg (including the theft of manhole covers to smash for the iron, which is technically punishable by the death penalty since it is theft of state property), punishment via detention center, and then the stress of escaping when you know that being caught means death. While reading, you kind of get this feeling of hopelessness: he didn't bother with school because grades mean nothing if you don't have connections and a high caste; he was so preoccupied with his own survival that the well-being of others sometimes came second, and he mentions his regret at not being more caring to his older sister. Joseph Kim did what he had to to survive, and I admired the bluntless of his recollections. Interestingly, while in GIRL WITH SEVEN NAMES and RIVER IN DARKNESS, the defection played a significant role in the story, here it is so quick as to feel glossed over. His time in China was relatively seamless, and he was shortly flown to the States after learning Chinese. One in the United States, we get some closure about his happy life, and how he has made friends and even traveled to Europe, and is currently awaiting his college acceptance letters (5 years ago-- hopefully he got in). It feels like a rushed ending, especially with the slow and dramatic build of his North Korean life. I'm not sure if maybe that's because this was partially ghost-written and he chose to only share selections of his life story, because I see that a man named Stephan Talty is listed as a contributor, in which case I can understand why Kim might have wished to keep certain details of his life private. But it is worth noting that the beginning of this book is much stronger and more solid than the end. Overall, I think this is a really great memoir and I think it's good to read multiple accounts of memoirs like these because you get to see what life in North Korea is like at multiple levels, from a variety of perspectives. As I've said in my reviews of previous books, we tend to get a pretty warped view of what North Korea is like living in the United States (case in point: Mango Mussolini's description of their leader as "Little Rocket Man"), and while it is not somewhere I would want to go to live or visit, reading these books does show a much more tempered view of a nation that is considered "hostile." I really enjoyed learning more about the culture, history, and people living there. I think that humanist view is necessary in politics, and it saddens me deeply that our current administration does not seem to share that view at all. 3.5 stars

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Ciarvella

    Anytime you finish a book the same afternoon that you pick it up, it's usually a good sign that it's compelling. I am deeply impressed with the selection of North Korea memoirs that are on offer and how each one paints a different picture of a different life, a different person, but yet manages to share the same hopes for a better future. In particular, Joseph Kim's book is unique in a few regards; it continually struck me that he is my peer in age (only four years younger than myself) and so I r Anytime you finish a book the same afternoon that you pick it up, it's usually a good sign that it's compelling. I am deeply impressed with the selection of North Korea memoirs that are on offer and how each one paints a different picture of a different life, a different person, but yet manages to share the same hopes for a better future. In particular, Joseph Kim's book is unique in a few regards; it continually struck me that he is my peer in age (only four years younger than myself) and so I reflected constantly on where I was and what I was doing with my own life during his various ordeals. That created a powerful reminder that these accounts are really happening, happen to real people, and continue to happen. It's a powerful thought. Finally, the epilogue was particularly compelling. Many defector accounts end with "and then I made it to America and everything was okay." But the adjustment period is difficult and I enjoyed getting a glimpse of it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    The writing skill is not 4 star, but much slack is given for that aspect as he has had English for few years, and still struggles. It has only been 6 or 7 years since the change of emigrating from North Korea thru China has occurred for this very young man. Much of the book is year by year, no- month by month of his life from the time he was 5 years old. So many fiction or non-fiction reads upon 1st World problems have readers reporting weeping and flushing emotively in their reviews. Of course h The writing skill is not 4 star, but much slack is given for that aspect as he has had English for few years, and still struggles. It has only been 6 or 7 years since the change of emigrating from North Korea thru China has occurred for this very young man. Much of the book is year by year, no- month by month of his life from the time he was 5 years old. So many fiction or non-fiction reads upon 1st World problems have readers reporting weeping and flushing emotively in their reviews. Of course hardship or grief has no solid boundary for emotional reaction. BUT- to me, majority of these people problems pale in comparison to Joseph Kim's story. His spirit and honesty for his own hard held perceptions, committed acts he admits he did to stay alive but morally questions, and his just plain integrity for his own declared faults are exceptional. Exceptional not just for an immigrant or a refugee or an orphan adventurer- any category his example may encompass- but exceptional for a human being. Highly exceptional. He was poor at school, he took his sister's sacrifices for granted and he enjoyed an only son status in a patriarchal system that gave that position highest perks. And yet, this governmental and societal system dehumanizes every position but the ruler's to such an extent- that even that perk mattered zero in the end. This is about starvation. Pure decades long group dying. One year there is food and yet again no food for two. This is watching others leave or the conversations held as loved ones encourage you to eat weeds. Or dig for tiny snails and try to dig out the speck. But the story is told in such a way that the hunger is always accompanied by the integrity of the person who is suffering it. And what happens to humans who are dying and yet trying to live under these limited choices is not told gratuitously but in heroic, and usually positive looking honesty. Empathy doesn't alter horrific situations, it just makes us "aware" that they exist and we can sympathize with the sufferers. As if the awareness changes a system so far away from us or the current particulars, as this N. Korean horror? Nope, it doesn't. Actions do. In this particular situation individual actions made the entire difference for Joseph. And in several cases there was no "empathy" taken or expressed by those individuals for large proportions of the process either. And a few people on the way held rejection with the information to escape. What mattered was the action that followed. Oliver Twist or David Copperfield experienced day trips to the urban zoo in comparison to Joseph's tale. The hair on my arms was raised when he wrote of being more terrified upon the anarchy than demoralized by the physical suffering. That feeling when you see people acting in groups of mobs where there is absolutely no one or entity in control over long periods of time. That he can speak of it so bluntly was awe inspiring to me. It's similar to being in war zones? Maybe worse, because there is no "side" or compatriot. Anything could happen. Afraid to sleep. Not just for a day or a week, but for months on end. He was smuggled through by a Christian church pathway. He sees things in Brooklyn now that he still cannot parse or have "normal" reactions to/with the surrounding population. This I very much understand. He still feels such deep sorrow over his losing knowledge of what has happened to his older sister. She was sold as a "China" bride and lost to him and he prays he can find her someday. If she is still alive. This book relates much about the North Korean culture, especially in marriage and funeral, or child to ancestor obligation and honor particulars. Joseph made me laugh out loud more than a few times. I do not think I know any male of any teen age or above age that loses their pants with a 27 inch waistband because they are too big. Nor an adult male who is trying to get all the way up to 30 inch waist size pants. The smile on the back cover is priceless. Watch out NY girls!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey (Books for Christian Girls)

    This book is hard. This book is gritty at times. But, this book tells the actual life story of a North Korean deflector who God had His hand on the entire time. ~*~*~ After watching numerous TED Talks and researching about the organization Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), I quickly placed an order for this book after hearing Joseph Kim's story. [YouTube link to his TED Talk] I'm truly not a non-fiction reader. With the type of content reviews I do, it's easy to feel like I'm nit-picking someone's life This book is hard. This book is gritty at times. But, this book tells the actual life story of a North Korean deflector who God had His hand on the entire time. ~*~*~ After watching numerous TED Talks and researching about the organization Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), I quickly placed an order for this book after hearing Joseph Kim's story. [YouTube link to his TED Talk] I'm truly not a non-fiction reader. With the type of content reviews I do, it's easy to feel like I'm nit-picking someone's life and their experiences. The truth of the matter is that real like isn't pretty. I'm sharing the main content from "Under the Same Sky" below for those to see if they can handle the content featured and discussed in this novel. It's a hard read, but it's one that should be read. "As American Christians, we can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening worldwide to our brothers and sisters" -Dede Laugesen Content: Fighting, hitting, pain, & blood/bleeding (up to semi-detailed); 1 ‘b*tch’, 1 ‘hell’, 2 ‘what the hell’s, 2 ‘damn’s, 4 ‘bastard’s, Many mentions of pain, fighting, beatings, blood/bleeding, & killings (including a husband beating his wife, up to semi-detailed on all); Mentions of graves, dead people, & bodies (up to semi-detailed); Mentions of executions, public executions, & firing squads; Mentions of the propaganda of anti-America that North Koreans are taught & killing (up to semi-detailed); Mentions of rumors of eating humans & children during a famine; Mentions of rumors about killing & selling children; Mentions of stealing & thieves; Mentions of gambling; Mentions of drinking, alcohol, & alcoholics (Joseph does drink a bit a few times); Mentions of cigarettes & smoking (Joseph, like most North Korean teens, smoked); Mentions of eating dogs, rats, & frogs during a famine; Mentions of superstitions, ghosts, & shamans; A few mentions of using the bathroom; A mention of suicide. Sexual Content: Mentions of girls being sold as “bride slaves” (sex slaves) or to brothels as prostitutes and raped repeatedly; Mentions of rapes & girls being sexually abused (it’s mentioned that he never heard of a boy being sexually abused); A mention of women selling their bodies to get food; A mention of not getting married or having sex after a loved one’s death; A mention of kicking someone in the privates; A mention of girls’ figures being full.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    Though not 4 star writing, a compelling story told with great humanity.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    Despite the detailed horrors of starvation, violence, loss and betrayal the author expresses in "Under the Same Sky," I never felt the story to be completely without hope or heart. There are times I felt guilty for enjoying the book, because the author, Kim, really lives through some truly dark and unbelievably awful years. His constant hunger and struggle to survive, and not only survive but connect with another human being who won't leave or betray him somehow, is written in a genuine and appe Despite the detailed horrors of starvation, violence, loss and betrayal the author expresses in "Under the Same Sky," I never felt the story to be completely without hope or heart. There are times I felt guilty for enjoying the book, because the author, Kim, really lives through some truly dark and unbelievably awful years. His constant hunger and struggle to survive, and not only survive but connect with another human being who won't leave or betray him somehow, is written in a genuine and appealing voice. Kim also does a good job of bringing in and giving life to the good things in his life even when the threat of starvation clung to him (and everyone around him). Kim's sister, Bong-Sook, is a bright star and I really loved her (and it's plain how much Kim realizes over time how good she's been to him and that he loves her, too). Kim's father is also a positive influence on him and there are just as many other good people who help him, as there are people who refuse to help or prove to be cruel to him. It's a well-balanced book (I also like how the author tries to look at both sides of a story, to try and understand there are sometimes reasons behind bad behavior, not to excuse the bad behavior, but he does try to give people the benefit of the doubt when he can) about a boy who beats the odds and survives to become a man who's not doomed by the hardships he endured in North Korea, but is instead a man with hope, education, friends, dreams, and a future in America. Inspiring, easy to understand, and honest in a personal way that draws readers in and doesn't let them go until the last page.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dalia Hosam

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 3.5 stars This book is a bit difficult to review. I read "the girl with seven names" before this book and from that book I learned a lot about North Korea, so I felt like I already knew most of the information in the book. I still learned a lot especially since the authors had different lives and the author of this book was alone and had to resort to begging during the famine. However, the author of the girl with seven names faced many difficulties in China and those parts were an interesting rea 3.5 stars This book is a bit difficult to review. I read "the girl with seven names" before this book and from that book I learned a lot about North Korea, so I felt like I already knew most of the information in the book. I still learned a lot especially since the authors had different lives and the author of this book was alone and had to resort to begging during the famine. However, the author of the girl with seven names faced many difficulties in China and those parts were an interesting read. I did get bored at the end of it and read the chapters quickly. The saddest parts are when he talks about his sister, I really hoped he would find her but there was no mention of that and I could not find out if he found her later on or not. It was also terrible when he lived off of stealing especially by breaking into homes, it was a difficult time for everyone and the family in the home might have gone through a lot to get the food that he stole with his association. I do understand that he was young and trying to survive but it's just a thought. I liked the book but I was not as interested in it as the girl with seven names, it might be because I learned a lot from the first one so lost some interest in this book. I do recommend reading it. I wanted to know how life would be for someone in North Korea who was less fortunate so I read this book. I did sometimes feel like it could have been shorter.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I've read a few stories about North Korea, but Joseph Kim's is the one that certainly moved me the most so far. It's beautiful, heart breaking, and inspiring. It's a clear story with memories, and dates that I found myself identifying with. This little boy's struggle to understand a world that was collapsing around him, losing his father, and the never knowing of what has happened to his sister and mother. There are several reasons, I loved this book. It's written by a contemporary. A person of m I've read a few stories about North Korea, but Joseph Kim's is the one that certainly moved me the most so far. It's beautiful, heart breaking, and inspiring. It's a clear story with memories, and dates that I found myself identifying with. This little boy's struggle to understand a world that was collapsing around him, losing his father, and the never knowing of what has happened to his sister and mother. There are several reasons, I loved this book. It's written by a contemporary. A person of my generation, and near my age. To think that this was happening to him thousands of miles away in North Korea while I enjoyed my merry carefree life here in America, in someways, it haunts me, but even with it's haunting story and yet, it is filled with hope. This is a book I want to purchase for everyone on my Christmas list to read, to understand and comprehend. there is so much going on out there in the world, and North Korea is one that I feel is very much neglected and ignored. Please read this book, get it from your library, or purchase it from where 100% of the price goes back into helping North Koreans escape and build better lives.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Kim's story is horrifying. It's different from many of the other stories of DPRK defectors I've read in that Kim was pretty much a child when he escaped North Korea and was motivated to leave first and foremost by starvation. The epilogue was heart-wrenching and the acknowledgements even more so. Kim's perspective is that of a child fighting to live homeless, starving, and without family in the DPRK; there are more comprehensive accounts of life in North Korea, but this personal, sad story of a Kim's story is horrifying. It's different from many of the other stories of DPRK defectors I've read in that Kim was pretty much a child when he escaped North Korea and was motivated to leave first and foremost by starvation. The epilogue was heart-wrenching and the acknowledgements even more so. Kim's perspective is that of a child fighting to live homeless, starving, and without family in the DPRK; there are more comprehensive accounts of life in North Korea, but this personal, sad story of a young boy's struggle to stay alive is definitely worth a read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    This North Korean refugee memoir ends on a much more hopeful note than the first one I read, so for that reason alone, I would recommend this one for anyone interested in the topic. Be warned, though, that the hope is a long time coming. I could only read a couple chapters at a time in certain portions of the book. It's heavy reading. Also be warned: after reading this book, you might go straight to your computer to look up North Korea relief agencies to find out ways you can help!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    Dang. It’s not an enjoyable read as the subject matter is just too grim, but it’s important and moving. The story of a North Korean refugee who survived the famine, he doesn’t hold anything back, and it’s deeply depressing. When the population of an entire country lives on the edge of survival, they’re barely human. Any sense of loyalty, morality - humanity - goes out the window and all that’s left is survival. So sad. It has particular resonance for (South) Koreans because those are our people, Dang. It’s not an enjoyable read as the subject matter is just too grim, but it’s important and moving. The story of a North Korean refugee who survived the famine, he doesn’t hold anything back, and it’s deeply depressing. When the population of an entire country lives on the edge of survival, they’re barely human. Any sense of loyalty, morality - humanity - goes out the window and all that’s left is survival. So sad. It has particular resonance for (South) Koreans because those are our people, our siblings, our cousins. There’s a train of thought out there that seems to think that people around the world basically get what they deserve, and that their outcome in life mostly reflects their just rewards. I don’t know how any Korean can read this and feel that way. We’re exactly the same people, arbitrarily divided, and the only thing that separates our comfortable lives from their misery is luck, providence, circumstances beyond our control.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Leighton

    Any book detailing the unimaginable horrors of living through the famines in North Korea of the 1990s and into the 2000s is going to be compelling and wrenching - Kim's tale adds to the body of work written by people who have managed to escape North Korea to tell their tales. No little boy should have to watch his father starve to death, knowing his father's biggest fear is that his children will starve without him. No matter how many times you read about people resorting to eating thistles and Any book detailing the unimaginable horrors of living through the famines in North Korea of the 1990s and into the 2000s is going to be compelling and wrenching - Kim's tale adds to the body of work written by people who have managed to escape North Korea to tell their tales. No little boy should have to watch his father starve to death, knowing his father's biggest fear is that his children will starve without him. No matter how many times you read about people resorting to eating thistles and weeds off the mountainside, and watching grandparents sacrifice their lives in hopes of preserving enough food for their grandchildren, it never becomes something I can truly wrap my head around as I sit in my home with a cabinet and fridge filled with food nearby. With that said, if you are going to only read one book about North Korea I would recommend A River in Darkness instead, or maybe even Nothing to Envy or A Thousand Miles to Freedom -all sadly books about the same subject matter but better written. That feels bitchy to say about a book about someone who has gone through so much. .. Tragic as this is, it becomes a little plodding at times.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    Wonderful read! My favorite NK book thus far. I do hope Joseph finds his sister one day....

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susan Morris

    Rounding up from 3.5 stars, because it’s an important subject we know little about - life in North Korea. Perhaps I struggled some to get thru it because it was so depressing, and difficult to understand such hunger & desperation during a famine. (Own) Rounding up from 3.5 stars, because it’s an important subject we know little about - life in North Korea. Perhaps I struggled some to get thru it because it was so depressing, and difficult to understand such hunger & desperation during a famine. (Own)

  15. 4 out of 5

    leia

    totally didn't read this in just an hour

  16. 4 out of 5

    Addie

    Well it was a bit slow in the beginning but it got way better in the end.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Joseph (Kwang Jin) Kim's recounting of his early life in North Korea is a poignant reminder not to forget those in need. It is not a light read, as young Kim faced numerous brutal events and chronic starvation from the years of famine. But this is a story that every caring person should know about. It is also a good read for Americans because it will provide insight into how North Korean refugees may view them and their culture. Overall, it was a beautifully written and emotionally moving biogra Joseph (Kwang Jin) Kim's recounting of his early life in North Korea is a poignant reminder not to forget those in need. It is not a light read, as young Kim faced numerous brutal events and chronic starvation from the years of famine. But this is a story that every caring person should know about. It is also a good read for Americans because it will provide insight into how North Korean refugees may view them and their culture. Overall, it was a beautifully written and emotionally moving biography that I will be pleased to add to my shelf! Note: These kinds of biographies cannot easily be verified by documentation, as the refugee would have left important papers behind in their country of origin (or in Kim's case, have been too young to have any in his possession anyway). However, it does seem to relate to behavior and North Korean society seen in Shin In Geun's book, Escape From Camp 14, which is also unverifiable. The author may choose to omit, alter, or fictionalize parts of their story and still publish it as non-fiction, most of the events, places, and people are true but perhaps happened in different order, etc. Bearing that in mind, I do recommend this book!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Donna Smith

    A personal look at what it was like to live and grow up in North Korea during extreme famine. Heart-breaking yet hopeful narrative. I would like to know more about his journey after he arrived in America. I was disappointed that he didn't describe more of his spiritual journey. It seemed like the Christian church reached out to him when he was at his lowest point. He embraces his understanding of scripture, he accepts salvation, but once he makes it to America he doesn't again mention the Church A personal look at what it was like to live and grow up in North Korea during extreme famine. Heart-breaking yet hopeful narrative. I would like to know more about his journey after he arrived in America. I was disappointed that he didn't describe more of his spiritual journey. It seemed like the Christian church reached out to him when he was at his lowest point. He embraces his understanding of scripture, he accepts salvation, but once he makes it to America he doesn't again mention the Church, the Bible, or his spiritual journey. Perhaps it ended when he no longer "needs" God and when his new goal is to get into an Ivy-league college. Still an amazing story that is worth reading for Americans like me who did not have an awareness of the living conditions of many North Korean people who were struggling to survive in the early 2000's.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    3.5 stars. This one offers more insights into the day-to-day and special-occasion rituals of North Korean culture. The TV shows that little boys like. The foods and outfits parents give to their children for Sports Day. A few parts of the story struck me as unusual and hard to believe. For example, his family moved around the country a lot, more freely than I thought people could. And are North Korean defectors really taken directly to U.S. consulates/embassies in the PRC and flown to L.A.? I th 3.5 stars. This one offers more insights into the day-to-day and special-occasion rituals of North Korean culture. The TV shows that little boys like. The foods and outfits parents give to their children for Sports Day. A few parts of the story struck me as unusual and hard to believe. For example, his family moved around the country a lot, more freely than I thought people could. And are North Korean defectors really taken directly to U.S. consulates/embassies in the PRC and flown to L.A.? I thought the routes were much more complicated and tended to involve some debriefing periods. I'm not saying he's wrong, obviously, but his story is different.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bobbi

    I had to put it down halfway and take a week's break to heal emotionally from the extremes of this man's childhood. I'm glad he's finally in a stable place, as far as physical needs go. I hope he continues to find healing emotionally and spiritually. Books like this make politics seem like raucous squabbling against the backdrop of the reality of real people carrying the weight of foolish politicians' decisions.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sara Elizabeth

    “We thought this was how the rest of our lives would be: living hand to mouth, only half nourished, often dizzy, too weak to really flourish” (Kim 69) . In Joseph Kim’s novel Under The Same Sky. Joseph Kim (originally known as Kwang Jin)’s life was not always like this. He once had a safe home, loving family, and plenty of food. In this novel, Kim recounts his troubled childhood in North Korea in 1995, and his escape to freedom in 2007. Under the Same Sky is a nonfiction story written is first p “We thought this was how the rest of our lives would be: living hand to mouth, only half nourished, often dizzy, too weak to really flourish” (Kim 69) . In Joseph Kim’s novel Under The Same Sky. Joseph Kim (originally known as Kwang Jin)’s life was not always like this. He once had a safe home, loving family, and plenty of food. In this novel, Kim recounts his troubled childhood in North Korea in 1995, and his escape to freedom in 2007. Under the Same Sky is a nonfiction story written is first person, taking readers slowly through the hardships of the famine and the fight for freedom. In this book Kwang Jin portrays two main themes; loss and hope. Under The Same Sky, the main character Kwang Jin and his family have a stable home and income in the beginning. From that though they face great losses, such as the death of their reigning leader Kim Il. Slowly after, they begin to notice the decline of resources and food. As essentials grow scarce, the family is forced to sell their belongings if they even want to make it to the end of the week. “In the spring of 1996, we clung to the edge of life. The famine had thinned out the village, as many of our friends lost grandmothers, aunts, sons, and cousins,” (Kim 29). As time moves forward it only gets worse, and the corrupt government provides no aid. People are dying right and left from starvation and hypothermia. People are selling their children into slavery, or as prostitutes so they can make a little money, or so they will more easily be able to support their leftover family. “Vicious hair-pulling fights broke out over lots of stewed weeds. One day, I saw a man carrying a corpse on his back, a corpse that had apparently come off a passing train. (Kim 31). At the end of the day, the famine has made people into animals. If they looked in the mirror they would not recognize the person staring back at them. Loss is present on almost every page of the book, it is not only experienced by the main character but everyone and everything around him. This is important because in a country whose government is corrupt, one must survive and fight for life. There is no one looking out for another’s well being, and life is quite literally in one's own hands. Under The Same Sky is a book that keeps readers on the edge of their seat constantly and always through unexpected turns. It is a book telling the backstory of someone who lived through a very important historical event in time. “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would near be forgotten.”-Rudyard Kipling (journalist). This is a primary source for people who are looking to learn about the North Korean famine of 1990. The nonfiction aspect alone keeps people hooked. It is almost uncomfortable to read about the suffering that the people in North Korea had to undergo. “ I didn’t feel human anymore. The wandering sparrow only has one thought -/food- and one emotion, that can be summed up as I don’t want to die. This causes you to lose any gracefulness you once had. Hunger makes your voice sound odd. Your eyes become glassy and depthless. Your arms snap out at customers at the market, frightening them. You can’t help yourself.” (Kim 130) The inhumane economy that had evolved makes readers appreciate the normal everyday events a little more. And when walking the streets there are not “tiny black-faced oily figures in oily, ragged clothing, begging for a bit of food or watching for their moment to steal.” (Kim 127) The deprivation is astounding and intriguing, it also teaches about how people in other cultures operate. Throughout the whole book readers will follow Kwang Jin’s childhood, then his tween years, and onto his teenage and adult years, all in which he experiences tremendous losses; both people, stability,security and even consciousness. Kwang Jin, under the circumstances never loses his flicker of hope however. As he takes readers through his life events that started at a very young age, readers will feel sad for him when he experiences loss, or deprivation. “ My thoughts turned mournful and lonely. When I looked out the flap of my tent, there were no human figures to be seen. I missed my friends back at the market, not the friends that you could trust to save your life, but friends to gossip and laugh at the bumpkins from the countryside.”(Kim 185) When he succeeds it is almost like a sigh of relief or weight of your chest. “After I finished, Adrien looked at me with a warm and friendly smile. So, he said, do you want to go to America?” (Kim 247) Putting yourself in his shoes is very seems to occurs often in this novel and that why it is so good. The mood of the story is constantly looking forward as if pulled by a string to the next day and what will come. Throughout this book there are numerous examples of loss and hope. Balancing strengths of the Under The Same Sky include enticing details, the damp mood in the duration of the story, new culture and history, and a life through the lenses of someone else. At some points there are situations where one step forward and two step back scenarios take place, but those are quickly overcome by a bigger event. Under The Same Sky is one of the many memoirs of the North Korean escapees. It includes first hand experiences in a different culture. It also explores feelings that are connectable to all people as loss, betrayal, sacrifice and hope, failure, and starting over.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Though it's definitely an interesting book that shows the life of North Koreans during the time the author grew up well, I had wished for a bit more on his life after leaving and get to know the inside of his head more, his thoughts and his feelings around everything (there is some of it, don't get me wrong, but I don't feel it's completely there). Worth the read though.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith is an autobiography written by Joseph Kim with Stephan Talty as a contributor. This memoir is an account of the harrowing escape from North Korea by Joseph Kim – one of the few successful attempts of such a deed. Joseph Kim is an American-North Korean Human Rights Activist and author. He was born in North Korea in 1990 and managed to escape and immigrate to the United States in 2007. He managed to complete his high school and college degre Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith is an autobiography written by Joseph Kim with Stephan Talty as a contributor. This memoir is an account of the harrowing escape from North Korea by Joseph Kim – one of the few successful attempts of such a deed. Joseph Kim is an American-North Korean Human Rights Activist and author. He was born in North Korea in 1990 and managed to escape and immigrate to the United States in 2007. He managed to complete his high school and college degree in New York City. Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith recounts the story of how Joseph Kim survived an unimaginably difficult childhood and adolescence growing up in North Korea. Until he was five years old, Kim lived happily with his parents and beloved older sister, Bong Sook. However, when a devastating famine arrived in 1995, everything changed. Kim’s family became one of millions reduced to abject poverty. Like so many others, they were forced to beg for food from strangers or from relatives who barely had enough for themselves. His mother became depressed, his cheerful father also fell victim to despair, lingering illness, and eventually death. Desperate for money, Kim’s mother took his sister to China, where she made illegal deals and sold her into domestic slavery. Kim himself ended up on the street, a homeless boy fighting to survive on whatever he could beg or steal from others who were suffering almost as much as he was. Eventually, he was captured by authorities and placed in a detention center for homeless children that doubled as a forced labor camp. Constantly in search of stability and food, the now-teenage Kim left the camp and went in search of his mother and other relatives. Unable to endure his nightmarish existence, he crossed into China, where an elderly Christian woman helped him find the path that led him to a fresh start in the United States. Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith was written extremely well. Kim relives his childhood in North Korea and the horrors experienced by the country during the Great Famine that began in 1995, when he was five. Kim does not hold anything back as he details how millions of people slowly descended into a never-ending battle to stay alive, doing whatever it took to stave off starvation. There is something riveting about Kim's honesty. He portrays the bleak conditions, dwindling resources, eternal uncertainty, and loss of dignity with an unashamed matter-of-factness almost at odds with the desperate circumstances. All in all, Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope, and Faith is a well-written autobiography about a harrowing tale of a teenagers journey from North Korea to China and eventually to the United States of America.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I bought this book because I am absolutely fascinated by North Korea. I've watched documentaries and read a few books, but the control of information in North Korea is so tight that it's hard to get a full story. My fascination came from the book "These are the Generations," which I highly recommend. I was expecting this book to be a bit similar in terms of discussing the spiritual and religious aspects of North Korea (especially since the cover mentions Christianity!), but there was barely any I bought this book because I am absolutely fascinated by North Korea. I've watched documentaries and read a few books, but the control of information in North Korea is so tight that it's hard to get a full story. My fascination came from the book "These are the Generations," which I highly recommend. I was expecting this book to be a bit similar in terms of discussing the spiritual and religious aspects of North Korea (especially since the cover mentions Christianity!), but there was barely any mention of religion. Not that that's a bad thing; it just surprised me.  Instead, 80% of the book was about how the author went from a fairly comfortable life to one of living in abject poverty and nearly starving to death. There's a chapter that focuses on the fact that one of the small restaurants they ate at might have been serving human meat, and briefly dwelling on whether they were actually cannibals. The kid was only ten(ish) at the time. I was absolutely horrified.  The book is a brutally honest look at what poverty, famine, and starvation really looks like, and what it feels like to live in a restrictive country like North Korea. I spent a good deal of my time reading this book with my jaw dropped, shaking my head. I was incredibly relieved when the author finally made it to China, but things were rough there as well. Even in getting to the US at the very end, there was a sense of difficulty - there was never a sense of completion or relief. The kicker was that this author is actually younger than I, and has experienced so much more than I have (thankfully).  Highly recommend this book for anyone interested in North Korea, memoirs, tales of poverty, or escape narratives. It's an incredible story - I only wish it weren't true.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    It is hard for me to say I "liked" this book, because honestly the subject matter was heart-wrenching and difficult to read. But that's what you are bargaining for if you pick a book that mentions starvation on the front cover. Admittedly, I was hoping that the starvation part would be, say, one third of the book, and escape and rescue and life in America would take up the other two thirds. In reality (and, well, it is reality, not a plot device), wretched starvation and human cruelty took up at It is hard for me to say I "liked" this book, because honestly the subject matter was heart-wrenching and difficult to read. But that's what you are bargaining for if you pick a book that mentions starvation on the front cover. Admittedly, I was hoping that the starvation part would be, say, one third of the book, and escape and rescue and life in America would take up the other two thirds. In reality (and, well, it is reality, not a plot device), wretched starvation and human cruelty took up at least ninety percent of the book (and that might be a conservative number) with an abrupt ending in the United States embassy and a whirlwind epilogue to dump in all the nicer bits. I'm glad the author has shared his story. I am glad to know more about the suffering of the North Korean people, especially to see that there is more to N. Korea's story than just a tyrannical government. The very quality of life and fabric of the culture is disintegrating to an appalling degree. These people are starving for food and starving for help, love, and truth. If I have any critique to say, I would like to hear more about Kim's ideas about what to do with this information. Human suffering compels us to act. How does he, a native Korean who has personally experienced this crisis, want us to act? I like to read memoirs and humanistic stories not just for the facts, but also to be challenged to change personally or to help the world around me change. I felt like I read something very heavy and, frankly, depressing, without being given a means of dealing with it positively. I would have liked more insight into his thoughts on that matter.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rishi Kinger

    I first came across Joseph Kim while browsing through the TED website in late 2017. After viewing his TED talk video, I was determined to go out and get hold of a copy of this book. The video itself was very inspiring and touching that I had to know his story. Like the sub title of the book mentions,it is a journey, albeit a tough and grueling one from starvation to salvation. His vivid recollection of his time in North Korea, his struggle, his escape and his current ongoing search for his siste I first came across Joseph Kim while browsing through the TED website in late 2017. After viewing his TED talk video, I was determined to go out and get hold of a copy of this book. The video itself was very inspiring and touching that I had to know his story. Like the sub title of the book mentions,it is a journey, albeit a tough and grueling one from starvation to salvation. His vivid recollection of his time in North Korea, his struggle, his escape and his current ongoing search for his sister, are both heart wrenching and heart warming. I have also read "Escape from Camp 14" but this book really tells the tale of hope in the darkest corners of the world filled with human distress and suffering. It forces you to reflect and realize how lucky we have been and things that we take for granted everyday are really things to be thankful for.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    This is hands down one of the BEST non fiction books I have read. 5 stars !!. It is an eye opening memoir about life in North Korea - both before and after the fall of Communist Russia, which had a direct impact on life in N. Korea. The chapters unfold 1 by 1, with Joseph Kim providing searing and extremely horrifying memories of his life in N. Korea. It is hard to fathom anyone could survive life there and live to tell about it. It is not a spoiler alert to mention that he eventually manages to e This is hands down one of the BEST non fiction books I have read. 5 stars !!. It is an eye opening memoir about life in North Korea - both before and after the fall of Communist Russia, which had a direct impact on life in N. Korea. The chapters unfold 1 by 1, with Joseph Kim providing searing and extremely horrifying memories of his life in N. Korea. It is hard to fathom anyone could survive life there and live to tell about it. It is not a spoiler alert to mention that he eventually manages to escape and move to the U.S. , since that is in the title. This is not a political book, but an account of what life was actually like for Joseph Kim. The last page is very moving, and explains the title of the book 'under the same sky'. After finishing the book , I could not stop thinking about the book. About Joseph, About his sister. That to me is the sign of an AMAZING BOOK.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rionald

    I usually don't read biography books, but my fascination with North Korea's dictator regime and me discovering Joseph Kim's story really moved me to read this book. I was already aware of the average North Korean life, at least from documentaries and hidden footages. However, reading Joseph Kim's own accounts truly took me to really understand that life in North Korea is a matter of survival, especially during the Great Famine. I have never finished a book so fast before, but not because I was bo I usually don't read biography books, but my fascination with North Korea's dictator regime and me discovering Joseph Kim's story really moved me to read this book. I was already aware of the average North Korean life, at least from documentaries and hidden footages. However, reading Joseph Kim's own accounts truly took me to really understand that life in North Korea is a matter of survival, especially during the Great Famine. I have never finished a book so fast before, but not because I was bored. In fact, I cannot stop reading the book until I finished the book in just two days. Throughout reading the book, I can truly imagine and picture Joseph's journey of happiness, worry, sorrow, hopelessness, despair, hope, and redemption. This is a book that forever changed how I see what survival really means. Joseph, I hope that someday you will meet your family again.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie_blu

    There are no words that can adequately convey to outsiders what life is like in North Korea, but this book peels back the barriers to give us a glimpse within. N. Korea is a true horror. Its rulers brutalize its citizens from the moment they are born. The people are inundated with propaganda in all areas of their lives. There is no access to outside information; therefore, they have no idea of what is possible for them. They suffer, generation after generation. I don't know how they will be free There are no words that can adequately convey to outsiders what life is like in North Korea, but this book peels back the barriers to give us a glimpse within. N. Korea is a true horror. Its rulers brutalize its citizens from the moment they are born. The people are inundated with propaganda in all areas of their lives. There is no access to outside information; therefore, they have no idea of what is possible for them. They suffer, generation after generation. I don't know how they will be freed from their slavery (for slaves they are), but I can't but fear it will be violent and bloody. Note: Another good book to read about N. Korea is "The Orphan Master's Son." It is a work of fiction, but based on facts.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Shirl Woolf

    I read that many do not find these books interesting. These stories are very heartbreaking and I can truly be thankful after reading how blessed I am to have been born in America. It is unbelievable how the people are tricked or brainwashed. They just starve and work as slaves with no paycheck. Can you imagine no paycheck when you may have a child at home and wife who are all starving? Those people who find them selves in the darkest realm of living life and who have reached the lowest f not dec I read that many do not find these books interesting. These stories are very heartbreaking and I can truly be thankful after reading how blessed I am to have been born in America. It is unbelievable how the people are tricked or brainwashed. They just starve and work as slaves with no paycheck. Can you imagine no paycheck when you may have a child at home and wife who are all starving? Those people who find them selves in the darkest realm of living life and who have reached the lowest f not deceased, finally see what the Prestiged people in Pyonyang cannot see. They find God or a meaning of life that is to live one day at a time. Just to enjoy the moment they can eat some rice. A Holocaust within a utopia of darkness. I could read this book several times.

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