Normal people living in abnormal conditions

From an interview with Beijing-based economist Patrick Chovanec…

“For most of us, I think, North Korea occupies the same imaginary plane of existence as Mordor. But it is real, and one thing I came to appreciate is that most North Koreans are normal people living in abnormal conditions. It’s the only world they know, and they try to make sense of it, and cope with it, as best they can. I don’t know how things will play out, but one can only hope they find their way to join the rest of us intact.”

Rarely are we granted such intimate portraits of life in North Korea. Chovanec’s account of his strictly guided tour of the world’s most closed society is similar to others I’ve read, but what strikes me about this one is the depth of the language used to describe the scenes witnessed and very human reaction to them.

“The second important thing I learned is gratitude. It sounds corny, but it’s not. It really wasn’t all that long ago that a big chunk of mankind lived under systems like this. We look back now and it seems inevitable – the fall of the Berlin Wall, China opening up – but it wasn’t inevitable. I’m grateful to be able to go home at the end of my trip, and I’m grateful for the people whose convictions and sacrifices made it so this kind of place is an anomaly in today’s world, and not the rule.”