THE PAST SEVERAL years have brought many surprises out of North Korea, but one that has perhaps received less attention from Western media is the publication of The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea. The Accusation is a collection of short stories that were penned by a North Korean author, under the pseudonym of Bandi.
Each of Bandi’s stories, completed between 1989 and 1995, follows a different cast of characters in a different part of North Korea under the rule of Kim Il-sung. Readers see the North’s regime through the eyes of a loving grandmother bent on visiting her pregnant daughter, a border sentry forced to participate in theater for a military arts festival, and a reporter profiling the chief technician of a struggling bean paste factory, to name a few. These stories are works of fiction, but together they paint a portrait of a real country permeated by contradictions and pain.