Having spent nearly a decade living in South Korea, I naturally became quite interested in its next-door neighbour, that darkly mysterious, forbidden country: North Korea. I became fascinated by the contrast between all that grossly monumental architecture dedicated to its leadership and the reality of a population so utterly deprived—of food, of freedom of expression, freedom of movement, access to basic healthcare, electricity, the Internet; you name it. And whenever the country’s current leader, Kim Jong-un, feels like rattling his sabres and putting on a massive display of military might, I am similarly both awed and disturbed by those images of thousands of goose-stepping soldiers marching through Pyongyang’s central square, a sight made all the more sinister by the regiments of robotic-looking onlookers, all cheering and shouting en masse. And in 2011, when Kim Jong Il died, I was transfixed by the images of the nearly competitive outpouring of public grief broadcast on the news. How very frightening it all seemed, for here was an entire population turned into puppets: made to cry, march, dance, or assemble upon command. To not do so, of course, would not only risk one’s own life, but it would have grave consequences for one’s entire family and generations to come. So when I heard of a forthcoming collection of short stories written by a North Korean dissident still living in that country—something that would shed light on the true reality of the lives of these people—I knew I needed to snatch it up as soon as it came out in English.