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There are certain logistical hurdles for those who would write about life in North Korea. For starters, few foreigners are allowed in. And once there, visitors are herded from approved site to approved site, never able to chat with unsanctioned locals--in part to preserve the regime's platform that life elsewhere is infinitely worse than in North Korea.
Barbara Demick covered Eastern Europe and the Middle East for the Philadelphia Inquirer before joining the Los Angeles Times in 2001 as the paper's first bureau chief in Seoul. She has managed to breach the wall through a few chaperoned visits and scores of painstaking interviews in China and …