Arabella Pike, publishing director at William Collins UK has bought world English Language rights to a memoir by North Korean female escapee Hyeonseo Lee. The book, yet to be titled, was sold for a six-figure sum at a brisk auction by Kelly Falconer of the Asia Literary Agency, based in Hong Kong.
Hyeonseo Lee captured the world’s attention earlier this year after her TED talk – detailing her extraordinary escape from North Korea – gathered over 2m views online.
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 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, where she is a human-rights advocate and spokesperson for the North Korean refugee community.
The book adds to the growing list of Korea-focused authors represented by the Asia Literary Agency including: Han Yujoo, winner of the Hankook Ilbo Literary Award in 2009; Chris Tharp, the Korea-based travel writer and memoirist; Michael Breen, journalist and author of The Koreans, and Kim Jong-il: North Korea's Dear Leader.
Kelly Falconer, founder of the Asia Literary Agency, said: "There has been a phenomenal amount of interest in Hyeonseo Lee. I am thrilled that her story will be shared with the world and will help raise awareness of the plight of North Korea’s people. This memoir is as raw and heart-breaking as it is hopeful and optimistic for the future of the divided peninsula."
Arabella Pike, Publishing Director at William Collins, said: "Hyeonseo Lee’s book electrified me. Ms. Lee is quite remarkable and her book promises to be powerful, deeply emotional and important. She will be, I believe, the first eyewitness female writer to describe the terrifying fates of North Korean women escapees in China. This will be a list-defining book for us."
Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish rights have already been sold, and other offers are also under consideration.
The book is due to be published in autumn 2014.