Tuesday 15 October 2013

Hyeonseo Lee’s North Korean escape and rescue memoir gains six figure book deal

Hyeonseo Lee, whose memoir will
be published in Autumn 2014
Hyeonseo Lee escaped the North Korean regime. Later, she risked her life to return and rescue her mother and brother. Her memoir of these events has now been acquired by Arabella Pike, Publishing Director at William Collins UK, in a six-figure deal following a hotly contested auction among numerous publishing houses bidding for the rights. Arabella Pike says that the book “has electrified everyone here …and in our US office.” She describes it as “powerful, deeply emotional and important” and adds that Hyeonseo Lee “will be, I believe, the first eyewitness female writer to describe the terrifying fates of North Korean women escapees in China.”

The deal was brokered by Kelly Falconer of the Asia Literary Agency, based in Hong Kong. And that’s why Kelly’s my agent. She comments,
This is the story not only of Hyeonseo's escape - literally from the darkness into the light - but also of her coming of age, of her "re-education", of her ability to successfully rebuild her life not once but twice, first in China, then in South Korea, which proved to be the more difficult of the two. Thousands of refugees and escapees pour out of North Korea but thousands also struggle to adapt, and rarely do they thrive, as Hyeonseo Lee has.
The book is due to be published in Autumn 2014. Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish rights have been sold at various auctions by Pontas Literary Agency, acting on behalf of the Asia Literary Agency, with other offers currently under consideration.

Buzz about Hyeonseo Lee has been building for months following her TED talk, which detailed her escape from North Korea and has gathered over 2 million views online. It is viewable here:

As a child, Hyeonseo Lee thought her country was ‘the best on the planet’. It wasn't until the devastating famine of the 1990s that she began to question what she had been taught. She escaped to China when she was 14 and began a life in hiding as an illegal alien. The book, as yet untitled, will describe her privileged childhood in North Korea, her life in China, her decision to settle eventually in South Korea and her journey back to North Korea to rescue her mother and brother. She is now at university in South Korea and is a human-rights advocate and spokesperson for the North Korean refugee community.

Selected further reading about North Korea

Press release text (c) Flatcap Asia, with thanks to Kelly Falconer for exclusive quote.