LONG ROAD HOME: Testimony of a North Korean Camp Survivor, by Kim Yong (with Kim Suk Young). Columbia University Press, 2009, 168 pp., $24.50 (hardcover)

The author of this excruciating memoir led an unquestioning life in North Korea until one of the routine checks experienced by the citizens of that country revealed that his father had perhaps been engaged in "espionage."

The North Korean state attributed collective guilt to the families of political wrongdoers. The perceived perpetrators usually were sentenced to hardest labor in the coal mines. The children and grandchildren also had to labor for as long as "the criminal in the family" was alive. Prison camps were (and are) provided for these various malefactors.

It was in one of the worst that Kim Yong was incarcerated from 1993 to 1999. Torture was routine: sleep deprivation, bamboo slivers driven under the fingernails, hung by the wrists until the flesh tore, confined for days in a tiny cell, unable to move.