On Waking up in Science Fiction


“Imagine waking up one day and realizing you were born on a completely different planet; and everything you learned was a lie, and your country’s history was so fabricated, and everyone around you was so brainwashed, and the heroes of your worship were actually monsters, villains.

This is like the plot to a science fiction novel, but it’s the insane reality for North Koreans, like me. From the moment I was born I was indoctrinated towards the first dictator Kim Il-sung and I always used to bow to his pictures, which hangs in every North Korean home.

To us he was a Santa Claus and God who is delivering presents on holidays and performing numerous miracles. When he was fighting our enemy he made bombs from pine cones and turned sent into rice and crossed a river on tree leaves, and he even walked across the rainbow. So that’s why, when I was young, I used to believe that I could also work across the rainbow.”

– Hyeonseo Lee

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2 thoughts on “On Waking up in Science Fiction

  1. “Kindness toward strangers is rare in North Korea. There is risk in helping others. The irony was that by forcing us to be good citizens, the state made accusers and informers of us all.”

    – Hyeonseo Lee, The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

    “Dictatorships may seem strong and unified, but they are always weaker than they appear. They are governed by the whim of one man, who can’t draw upon a wealth of discussion and debate, as democracies can, because he rules through terror and the only truth permitted is his own.”

    – Ibid.

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