Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea

by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland

Sungju Lee’s comfortable early childhood was spent in Pyongyang, North Korea,... read more

Sungju Lee’s comfortable early childhood was spent in Pyongyang, North Korea, where his father held an important position within the military. Three years after Kim Il-Sung’s death in 1994, Sungju and his parents made an abrupt move to Gyeong-Seong. Although his parents called it a “vacation,” it was clear that his father had lost his job and the move was punishment. Sungju witnesses poverty he never imagined in the lives of those around him, and soon experiences it in his own. After their savings run out, Sungju and his parents forage in the surrounding forest for food. Eventually his father heads to China in hopes of earning money. When he doesn’t come back, his mother leaves to ask an aunt for help. Neither parent returns, leaving Sungju to survive on his own. He and other boys he knows form a gang of kotjebi, homeless boys who steal to survive. They also fight other gangs for the right to stay and work a town. After five years of harsh living, Sungju is reunited with his grandfather, and then with his father, who had been trapped in China but finally made it to South Korea. The two have never given up hope of finding Sungju’s mother. An afterword of this gripping memoir explains that after getting his education, Sungju has worked with his father to rescue other North Korean defectors trapped in China. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2017

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