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30+ quotes from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story by Hyeonseo Lee

Quotes from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story

Hyeonseo Lee ·  304 pages

Rating: (20.6K votes)


“I hope you remember that if you encounter an obstacle on the road, don’t think of it as an obstacle at all… think of it as a challenge to find a new path on the road less traveled.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“After years in the Chinese workforce, I had developed an emotional attachment to money. My earnings were my hard work and long hours; my savings were comforts deferred.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“This is when I understood that we can do without almost anything – our home, even our country. But we will never do without other people, and we will never do without family.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“I had to learn Mandarin. And I had the best teacher – necessity. You can study a language for years at school, but nothing helps you succeed like need, and mine was clear, and urgent.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“Kindness toward strangers is rare in North Korea. There is risk in helping others. The irony was that by forcing us to be good citizens, the state made accusers and informers of us all.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“Kind people who put others before themselves would be the first to die. It was the ruthless and the selfish who would survive.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“Dictatorships may seem strong and unified, but they are always weaker than they appear.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“I will never truly be free of its gravity, no matter how far I journey.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“He’d valued his dignity more than his own life.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“In her world, the law was upside down. People had to break the law to live. The prohibition on drug-dealing, a serious crime in most countries, is not viewed in the same way – as protective of society – by North Koreans. It is viewed as a risk, like unauthorized parking. If you can get away with it, where’s the harm?”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“This is the first time I will tell my story in English, a language still new to me. The journey to this moment has been a long one.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“She liked to dress well because she thought this made up for plain and ordinary looks. In fact she was prettier than she knew.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“It was an aspiring neighbourhood that retained a faint edge of slum, typical of Shanghai. Pensioners in Mao-era padded jackets would sit on doorsteps playing mah-jong, oblivious to the Prada-clad girls sweeping past on their way to work.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“In North Korea the only laws that truly matter, and for which extreme penalties are imposed if they are broken, touch on loyalty to the Kim dynasty.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“Dictatorships may seem strong and unified, but they are always weaker than they appear. They are governed by the whim of one man, who can’t draw upon a wealth of discussion and debate, as democracies can, because he rules through terror and the only truth permitted is his own.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“The school year started in September, with a long vacation in the winter, not the summer, due to the difficulty of keeping the schools warm in North Korea’s harsh winters. My kindergarten had a large wood-burning stove in the middle of the classroom and walls painted with colourful scenes of children performing gymnastics, children in uniform, and of a North Korean soldier simultaneously impaling a Yankee, a Japanese and a South Korean soldier with his rifle bayonet.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“I was already hiding beneath so many lies that I hardly knew who I was any more. I was becoming a non-person.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“Her job at the local government bureau also meant that she had access to farm produce managed by her office.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“I ate noodles every day. After a week, I wanted a change and rang Kim to ask him the English word for bab. ‘Rice,’ he said. ‘Lice,’ I repeated. ‘Not lice, rice. They’re two different things. You must ask for rice.’ ‘Got it. Lice.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“One of the tragedies of North Korea is that everyone wears a mask, which they let slip at their peril.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“Not only did I believe that humans were selfish and base, I also knew that plenty of them were actually bad – content to destroy lives for their own gain. I’d seen Korean-Chinese expose North Korean escapees to the police in return for money. I’d known people who’d been trafficked by other humans as if they were livestock. That world was familiar to me. All my life, random acts of kindness had been so rare that they’d stick in my memory, and I’d think: how strange.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“I wanted to belong, like everyone else around me did, but there was no country I could say was mine. I had no one to tell me that many other people in the world have a fragmented identity; that it doesn’t matter. That who we are as a person is what’s important.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“I’ll do whatever it takes. Humans are selfish and care only for themselves and their families. Am I any different?..... Not only did I believe that humans were selfish and base, I also knew that plenty of them were actually bad – content to destroy lives for their own gain.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“North Koreans who have never left don’t think critically because they have no point of comparison – with previous governments, different policies, or with other societies in the outside world.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“She’d said nothing about keeping this a secret, but I knew I would never mention it to my mother or my father or anyone. I was too young to know that talking about it is exactly what I should have done.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“History lessons were superficial. The past was not set in stone, and was occasionally rewritten.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“It was the dilemma all three of us had. Every choice we made cut us off permanently from someone we loved.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“It is mandatory from elementary school to attend public executions. Often classes would be cancelled so students could go. Factories would send their workers, to ensure a large crowd. I always tried to avoid attending, but on one occasion that summer I made an exception, because I knew one of the men being killed. Many people in Hyesan knew him. You might think the execution of an acquaintance is the last thing you’d want to see. In fact, people made excuses not to go if they didn’t know the victim. But if they knew the victim, they felt obliged to go, as they would to a funeral.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“One of the main reasons that distinctions between oppressor and victim are blurred in North Korea is that no one there has any concept of rights. To know that your rights are being abused, or that you are abusing someone else’s, you first have to know that you have them, and what they are.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


“Sixty thousand yuan – a fortune representing ten years’ wages at the restaurant – and a week’s imprisonment with the threat of rape, and all I’d achieved was a three-minute reunion with Min-ho.”
― Hyeonseo Lee, quote from The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story


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