I suppose she could have told those kinds of stories. But it was what she said about a simple banana that blew me away.
In describing the experience of a 17-year-old girl who finally gave up on her country and walked across an icy river into Manchuria, Demick said this girl — Song-hee — insisted that she was one of the “rich people” of North Korea even though she had no idea what the Internet was. All she understood was that there was a better life in this dumpy Manchurian city near the North Korean/Chinese border. Song-hee said she was one of the lucky ones because unlike her friends and neighbors, she got an egg to eat once a month. Luckiest of all, she related proudly to Demick, she knew what a banana tasted like.
When a banana is a sign of boundless riches, perhaps you are in North Korea. This morning that single detail pulled back a curtain on North Korea like nothing I have ever encountered about Pyongyang, the Korean War, or the fashionable lunacy of the Il Songs and Jong Ils.