4th August 2017

Nothing to Envy- Essay 1

The characters we respond to the most sympathetically are those who experience both suffering and triumph

Point 1: Mi-ran

Suffering: Father and being of tainted blood (Mi-ran and her siblings can’t move up in class rank/can’t marry well/can’t get highly paid jobs/can’t travel) p.24-25

SONGBUN p.5, p.28-29,

Keeping her relationship in hiding p.4-5, p.7

  • System restricts people within north korea


Triumph: Becomes a teacher p.118

Going to see Jun Sang at university through the trains p.124-128

Getting out of North Korea and starting a new life p.208-210

  • Stronger will power over the system


Point 2: Dr Kim

Triumph: becoming a doctor (guy job) resigned from her job because she’s under the hunt p.104

Helps other by forging notes for them to go look for food, helping other people survive ?>?

  • Shows the side to Dr Kim, (she puts other first and helps others)


Suffering: feeling betrayed within her job, feeling watched (father isn’t true north korean so she can’t work in the workers party because she’s not faithful to north korea) p.105

Suffering from starvation (no more paychecks so she has to find own food) p.105

‘Dogs in China eat better than doctors in north Korea’ ?>?

  • No matter how hard she works she’ll never succeed in the system


Point 3: Mrs Song

Triumph: True believer towards the regime (attends lectures/self-criticism, badge, portraits, dusts) p.39 p.43 p.46-47 p.46 p.47

Making cookies to sell on the corner ”: p.148

  • System has so much control over people


Suffering: (her own business, sells her family possessions, tries to buy rice the train crashes, everyone around her dies) p.138 p.138-140 p.140 p.141

p.144 p.145

  • Uses her suffering to triumph over the regime

The characters we respond to the most sympathetically are those who experience both suffering and triumph

Text title, author, the question, points you will discuss, give a summary about what the reader learns from these events.

In the text ‘Nothing to Envy’ written by Barbara Demick, the characters we respond to with both suffering and triumph are Mi-Ran, Dr Kim and Mrs Song. Through multiple events we are shown the strength these characters have over the regime that tries to control over their lives and restrict them from succeeding in life.    

Mi-ran is the first character we are introduced to in the book and the first if the defectors that were interviewed. She was introduced as a 12 year old who was madly in love with a boy slightly older than her Jun-Sung. Her relationship of many years was suppressed by the rules within North Korea. Emotionally she was being supressed of her feelings towards Jun-Sang… Mi-ran’s family’s song bun was low, they were of lower class and Jun-Sang’s of a higher class. Mi-ran was cut off from the best schools and the best jobs this was because her father was a war prisoner. Mi-ran was “tainted blood”. This also meant Mi-rans siblings were now of tainted blood also. They couldn’t move up the social rung. This you could tell was suffering for Mi-ran. For many years Mi-ran grew up under the heavy control of the system. This character also shows triph within the text. Mi-Ran becomes a teacher. From her low songbun this was thought to be impossible, she couldn’t get such a good job because of her ranking.  This was a great breakthrough for Mi-Ran as she loved to be a teacher and now she was.  The huge triumph for Mi-Ran was finally defecting out of North Korea and starting a new life. This showed that her strong will power pushed her to beat the system and escape. Many people are still suffering in North Korea to this day with the same problems as Mi-ran suffered through all those years.


Dr Kim. A patriotic young doctor in Chongin. Doctor Kim was one of the youngest and smallest doctors in the hospital. Her dedication to the hospital is huge she has a very strong work ethic. Dr Kims suffering comes from her work when she becomes aware that she is being watched by a national security agent. From this realisation her strength is shown within as she

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