North Koreans in China live constantly under threat of arrest and repatriation. Women are often trafficked, sold as “brides” in response to a shortage of partners in China (due to that country's history of male preference that has created a “sex imbalance … [of] epic proportions”). The children of these North Korean/Chinese unions perhaps suffer the most, trapped in stateless limbo: The fear of exposing a North Korean mother’s illegal status prevents a Chinese father from officially registering the child who, in effect, doesn’t exist and therefore has no access to education and healthcare.
Within and beyond China, remarkable heroes extend the escape networks into numerous Asian countries as they work to send North Korean escapees to freedom in South Korea and beyond. These heroes include: Steve Kim, founder of 318 Partners (named for Article 318 of the Chinese criminal code which sent him to jail for aiding North Koreans in China); “Mary and Jim,” a retired couple, who run orphanages in China for mixed children abandoned by missing North Korean mothers and desperate Chinese fathers (the undocumented status of these children makes them ineligible for adoption); and “Mr. Jung,” who has undergone face-changing surgeries to repeatedly fool Chinese authorities while rescuing South Korean prisoners of war held illegally in North Korea since 1953.
The tenacity of such brave individuals is sharply contrasted with the failure of the world – especially South Korea, the United States, even the United Nations – to confront and combat North Korea’s atrocities. Kirkpatrick convincingly argues that escaped North Koreans – from starving children to highly-placed officials – will prove to be the best weapon against toppling the despotic, third-generation Kim regime.