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

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

An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships – and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.

As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal totalitarian regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told “the best on the planet”?

Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family.

She could not return, since rumours of her escape were spreading, and she and her family could incur the punishments of the government authorities – involving imprisonment, torture, and possible public execution. Hyeonseo instead remained in China and rapidly learned Chinese in an effort to adapt and survive. Twelve years and two lifetimes later, she would return to the North Korean border in a daring mission to spirit her mother and brother to South Korea, on one of the most arduous, costly and dangerous journeys imaginable.

This is the unique story not only of Hyeonseo’s escape from the darkness into the light, but also of her coming of age, education and the resolve she found to rebuild her life – not once, but twice – first in China, then in South Korea. Strong, brave and eloquent, this memoir is a triumph of her remarkable spirit.

Title:The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780007554836
Format Type:

About Hyeonseo Lee

"Hyeonseo Lee brought the human consequences of global inaction on North Korea to the world's doorstep.... Against all odds she escaped, survived, and had the courage to speak out."


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

  • Hyeonseo Lee

    Thanks to everyone who voted in the 2015 #GoodreadsChoice Awards. Of course, I was hoping to win, but I'm still honored that I came in 4th place out of many good books. Wow!!! I never thought my memoi...

  • Sungeun Jin

    Full Disclosure: I am a South Korean and I have encountered with a number of readings, TED-talks, Youtube videos on life in North Korea, testimonies of North Korean defectors on horrific lives in our ...

  • abby

    By the time she turned 29, Hyeonseo Lee had spent a decade living on the run and in hiding. She had escaped a brothel, survived a kidnapping, run away from a loveless engagement, and changed her name ...

  • Dem

    What an interesting story and its so hard to believe that in this day and age that a whole nation of 25.5 Million people could be so cut off from the rest of the world and its leader could controll an...

  • Julia Graf

    I did enjoy this but I also feel like she made a lot of really incredibly dumb choices that really made no sense. For example she stayed with relatives in China for 2 whole years (!!!) and didn't thin...

  • Camie

    If you're like me and haven't read much about past and present living conditions in Northern Korea , you'll learn a lot here.This simply written book follows the courageous journey of a 17 year old gi...

  • Trish

    I listened to this remarkable story, read by Josie Dunn and published by HarperCollins Publishers UK, with a degree of disbelief. Certain parts of the story agree with what I’d learned already about...

  • Short  Reviews

    This was definitely the best autobiography I've read to date. Hyeonseo is a brave exceptional woman who has been through hell and back. The loyalty and love she has for her family was so lovely to rea...

  • Sharon Metcalf

    The Girl with Seven Names: Escape From North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee is what reading is all about for me. Learning something of the world, of the lives of others and gaining an appreciation for just how...

  • Apratim Mukherjee

    This is the first time I read a North Korean defector's story.I had read about the oppressive regime but the book is an eye opener of all sorts.Though written like a thriller novel,the book tells a lo...