Two decades ago, millions of North Koreans faced widespread famine, and many families would do just about anything to feed their children. In an edited excerpt from his memoir Under the Same Sky, Joseph Kim describes life during the famine — and one haunting consequence of his hunger.
The famine pursued us. There were days when all we had to eat was a handful of wild mushrooms in water. So we decided to travel to my maternal grandmother’s, where we hoped to find food.
Usually, my mother would have planned a trip like that for months, since it took all that time to notify the person you were going to see of your arrival, to get train tickets, and to tell the school your kids wouldn’t be attending. But we didn’t have normal lives anymore; your schedule was decided by what you needed to do to get food that…
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