4th August 2017

Nothing to envy essay 1



Defecting before any of the other key characters in the text; before many citizens defected and in an extremely dangerous time.

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

We respond sympathetically to Mi-ran’s suffering at the beginning of the text. Mi-ran is a 12-year-old girl from Chongjin, and she is the first character the reader meets. Her father was a south Korean captured in the Korean war and taken as a prisoner of war, and because of her father’s background Mi-ran and her siblings are restricted of progress. Due to low social status (songbun) her father soon becomes submissive on the North Korean way of life, Mi-Ran is limited by her “tainted blood” which meant she was in a hostile class, she could never move up in that class the only way was down, this means she was restricted from education, travelling, she was only allowed in certain places, the text quotes “North Koreans over lower ranks were banned from living in Pyongyang” and also “What was the point with burdening them with the knowledge that they would be barred from the best schools and the best jobs, that their lives would soon reach a dead-end?” Because of Mi-ran’s songbun we respond sympathetically towards her suffering, as a 17 year old girl from New Zealand I could only imagine how living a life this restricted would affect me where i could not travel anywhere, gain my dream job, be with the man I loved and live a life in the shadows. Like Mi-Ran I have my whole life ahead of me, and having my horizons limited due to my fathers status very much like Mi-Ran when she quotes “They had to expect that their horizons would be as limited as those of her father.” 

Frustrations are emphasised when childhood sweethearts Mi-Ran and Junsang whose relationship was frustrated by the latter’s higher social standing. She was introduced as a 12-year-old in love with a boy slightly older than her Jun-Sang, their relationship was suppressed by the rules and regulations within North Korea. It starts out as an innocent love that is shared between the characters but she realised because she was born to a lower class, they would have to sneak out at night as that was the only time they were able to see each other. As Mi-Ran matures she finds out she is treated less than Jun-Sang as he is from a higher class. I sympathise for Mi-ran as she struggles knowing her boyfriend Jun-Sang with higher status than herself, will move forward in society and be accepted into the highest of education, highest ranking jobs whereas Mi-ran will never be able to move up in society she will always be the one at the bottom of the food-chain. If i was to put myself in Mi-rans shoes i would feel like a disappointment to my boyfriend and although he may not think that I would constantly feel as if I was bringing him down and stopping him from growing towards his full potential, constantly feeling selfish for staying with him. It’s these many reasons as to why we sympathise with Mi-ran in the non-fiction text “Nothing to Envy.”

Mi- Ran was fortunate enough to gain an education even though when they reached college age, Jun-sang was sent to a privileged engineering school in Pyongyang, whilst Mi-ran was a teacher in the remote city of Chongjin. Mi-ran later on became a teacher, however by the time she became a teacher the famine had reached North Korea, many were dying from starvation and poor health, those people included some of her students. The extent of how serious the famine was becomes clear as the non fictional text quotes “Their big heads lolled on the top of scrawny necks; their delicate rib cages protruded over waists so small that she could encircle them with her hands. Some of them were starting to swell in the stomach.” Her suffering is also shown in the lines of “People who came from Japan usually married their own kind anyway, they would fix him up with a girl who had Japanese money or he’d meet a smart sophisticated girl at university. Mi-rans romantic, poetry quoting boyfriend was simply out of her league, face the facts, she told herself.” From these details, we feel sympathy for Mi-ran’s suffering because we realise that it not only affects Mi-ran just for a short period of time but it affects her entire life. To have a life like Mi-ran where she could never reach her full potential of happiness, not to mention fact she could never marry Jun-Sang due to her low songbun, I can only sympathise for Mi-ran as I cannot fully relate to her life in North Korea, when I live in the safeness of New Zealand where there are little restrictions unlike North- Korea. 

A place in the non fiction text where the reader experienced triumph for Mi-ran 



Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Kiera, this is a very good start. However, you will need to finish this essay for your 3.4 Portfolio- please see me.


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