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May 2013

North Korean Defectors

Image: Jeremy Hunter, "Apple Orchard," Pyongyang, August 2011, Digital photograph, 40 inches x 30 inches ©Jeremy Hunter / Telefoto

Guest Editor Shirley Lee,

We continue our tenth anniversary celebration with writing from North Korea. In compiling our September 2003 issue, we discovered North Korean writers can publish only propaganda, and are restricted to official outlets.  As this opaque nation becomes more visible, and threatening, on the international stage, we turn for insight to the only writers free to tell the truth: defectors. From the safety of exile, Gwak Moon-an, Jang Jin-sung, Ji Hyun-ah, Kim Sung-min, Kim Yeon-seul, Lee Ji Myung, and Park Gui-ok document famine, corruption, and the soul-crushing pressure on writers to sacrifice art and individuality in the interest of promoting the state. We thank our guest editor, Shirley Lee, who provides an illuminating introduction. Our special section showcases writing in Swahili by Abdilatif Abdalla, Mwenda Mbatiah, and Ken Walibora.

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