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A Dissident Book Smuggled From North Korea Finds a Global Audience

How “The Accusation” came to light is a story of its own. In 2012, Mr. Do received an urgent call from fellow human rights activists in China: A North Korean woman had been caught by the Chinese police and was about to be extradited to the North, where she would certainly face time in a prison camp. Mr. Do raised cash to help her bribe her way out and to bring her to South Korea.

She told Mr. Do that before fleeing the North, she went to say goodbye to a relative, Bandi. He asked her to take a seditious manuscript he had been hiding, but she was too afraid to smuggle it across the border into China; if she was caught, she, the writer and their families would certainly have been banished into prison camps, if not executed.

She gave Bandi’s real name and his North Korean address to Mr. Do, who hired an ethnic Korean in China to travel to North Korea as a tourist and discreetly contact the writer. In 2013, the manuscript was smuggled out, hidden among works of propaganda glorifying Kim Il-sung, the country’s founding president and grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un.

Mr. Do was a well-known advocate for human rights in North Korea and a member of the South Korean government’s National Unification Advisory Council. But when he offered the manuscript to publishing houses in South Korea, most declined, as Bandi’s existence in North Korea has never been independently verified. All they had to rely on was Mr. Do’s word.

Mr. Do faced an agonizing predicament. He wanted to provide as much information as he could to establish that the book was not a hoax. But he also had to protect Bandi’s identity to keep him safe from retaliation by the North Korean regime. This is about all Dr. Do will say about Bandi’s identity: He was born in 1950. He has belonged to the Korean Writers’ Alliance, a government-controlled organ dedicated to producing censored literature for…

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