SEOUL, South Korea — It was a dog-eared manuscript, 743 pages bound in string. But for Do Hee-youn, an activist campaigning for human rights in North Korea, it was nothing less than stunning.
In 2013, Mr. Do got hold of what he believed was the first manuscript by a living dissident writer in North Korea that had been smuggled out. Written in meticulous longhand on the coarse brown manuscript paper used in North Korea, the book — a collection of seven short stories — was a fierce indictment of life in the totalitarian North. The author wrote of living “like a machine that talked, a yoked human.
“Written in meticulous longhand on the coarse brown manuscript paper used in North Korea, the book … was a fierce indictment of life in the totalitarian North.”
Thanks to Mr. Do’s efforts, the book, “The Accusation,” written under the pseudonym Bandi (“Firefly” in Korean), has found audiences around the world. It has been translated into 18 languages and published in 20 countries. Translated by Deborah Smith into English and published by Grove Press, “The Accusation: Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea” hit the United States market this month.
“This is the debut of ‘North Korea’s Solzhenitsyn,’” said Kim Kwang-jin, a defector and researcher at the government-funded Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, the South Korean capital, comparing Bandi to the Russian novelist and Nobel laureate whose writing helped raise global awareness of the gulag forced labor camps of the old Soviet Union. The Guardian wrote, “In its scope and courage, ‘The Accusation’ is an act of great love.”
Photo: A sidewalk scene in Pyongyang, North Korea. Credit: David Guttenfelder/Associated Press