Loss and Survival in North Korea
Marching Through Suffering is a deeply personal portrait of the ravages of famine and totalitarian politics in modern North Korea since the 1990s. Featuring interviews with more than thirty North Koreans who defected to Seoul and Tokyo, the book explores the subjective experience of the nation's famine and its citizens' social and psychological strategies for coping with the regime.
These oral testimonies show how ordinary North Koreans, from farmers and soldiers to students and diplomats, framed the mounting struggles and deaths surrounding them as the famine progressed. Following the development of the disaster, North Koreans deployed complex discursive strategies to rationalize the horror and hardship in their lives, practices that maintained citizens' loyalty to the regime during the famine and continue to sustain its rule today. Casting North Koreans as a diverse people with a vast capacity for adaptation rather than as a monolithic entity passively enduring oppression, Marching Through Suffering positions personal history as key to the interpretation of political violence.
"Marching Through Suffering is a really moving book. It is partly the subject matter, to be sure, but it is also Sandra Fahy's sensitivity to what her subjects are saying and their psychological state. That is what ethnography should be doing for us." — Stephan Haggard, University of California, San Diego
"Sandra Fahy offers a unique, penetrating, and informative ethnography of one of the most opaque societies in modern history. Few scholars have sought to understand the humanity that survives, and sometimes thrives in its own way, beneath the oppressive state structure—an important contribution to the expert literature, yet accessible to the general reader." — Victor Cha, Georgetown University
"This book is an extraordinary contribution to the famine literature. Sandra Fahy's analysis of the North Korea famine draws extensively on her interviews with survivors, which gives this narrative a unique depth and credibility. These personal accounts lift the veil of secrecy and reveal North Koreans as real people with a healthily skeptical sense of humor, even in extreme adversity, not as mute shadow-puppets mindlessly manipulated by their dour leaders. No book I have ever read conveys the mundane horror of a famine so vividly, while retaining academic rigor and advancing our understanding of this famine's complex causes and consequences." — Stephen Devereux, Institute of Development Studies, author of Theories of Famine and editor of The New Famines
"If you want to know why the human rights agenda matters, read this book and be reminded how complexly damaging state-led deprivation and oppression can be." — Peterson Institute for International Economic
"Fascinating... An important work that helps provide a far more nuanced view of the complexities of life in North Korea than that found in the media." — CHOICE
"With its nuanced understanding of North Koreans and elegant prose, Fahy's work will certainly find a place on the syllabi of many future coures on North Korea." — BAKS Papers
"What emerges is a people-centered story, a tale that empowers rather than victimizes. It is, the reviewers unequivocally conclude, a harrowing but powerful read." — Sino NK
"Subtly and sensitively, the author examines how people tried to cope with and make sense of their lives as they ran out of food in a society where words such as famine and starvation were taboo." — Times Literary Supplement
"Sandra Fahy's, Marching Through Suffering: Loss and Survival in North Korea, makes an original contribution to the literature on the 1990s famine in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." — David Hawk, Human Rights Quarterly
Note on Translation, Confidentiality, Terms, and Romanization
Introduction: Loss and Survival
1. The Busy Years
2. Cohesion and Disintegration
3. The Life of Words
4. Life Leaves Death Behind
5. Breaking Points
6. The New Division
Conclusion: Is Past Prologue?
Appendix: A Short History of the North Korean Famine
Read an excerpt from Sandra Fahy's Introduction: