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But my fear of the dark is overpowering; I would rather forsake good sleep if it means keeping the darkness at bay. I often wake with a sinking feeling, then spend many early hours staring at unopened emails with dread, ill at ease with facing a shared territory of interaction.I have even been avoiding emails about this essay, which I’ve been afraid to start for weeks.Kennedy Airport, in New York, after our family had fled Korea.
But eventually I got bored of reading him; I realized that it wasn’t Murakami’s writing that haunted me but the well from my childhood.
My passion for his work was just the flip side of a stronger fear.
My family was separated by the Korean War, and I was born and raised in South Korea.
When I was twelve, my father, who had been a millionaire, suddenly went bankrupt.
Or it’s possible that North Korea, in some ethereal way, became a kind of darkest night, the longest wait, the well from my childhood.
I pursued coverage of the country for a decade, every step of the way nearly paralyzed with fear.For this act, I am often described as “fearless.” People call me brave.But even if it sounds illogical, I consider myself to be a very fearful person.How all this relates to North Korea might seem, I realize, abstract. Perhaps I traveled to the darkest place on earth because I empathized with its citizens, who are stuck in that darkness and cannot get out.Perhaps their voicelessness became mine because it reminded me of mine.Even more, I believe my fearfulness is the only way I can begin to explain my time undercover in the gulag nation.North Korea is perhaps the darkest place in the world.I was not one of those intrepid foreign correspondents who jump into war zones, nor did I have a team of editors, fixers, and photographers working alongside to help figure out the logistics and arrange the precautionary backups.Although I signed a book contract long before 2011—when I finally dove into Pyongyang for those six months—my meager contract was just a piece of paper with a vague deadline, never a support network I could rely on for protection.In the middle of night, I was awakened and shoved into a car and driven to a city far away, to a relative’s house, where I waited for my parents to join me.Because bankruptcy is punishable there by jail, my parents had gone into hiding.