The Girl with Seven Names - Hyeonseo Lee

The Girl with Seven Names

By Hyeonseo Lee

  • Release Date: 2015-07-02
  • Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Score: 4.5
From 1,433 Ratings



An extraordinary insight into life under one of the world’s most ruthless and secretive dictatorships – and the story of one woman’s terrifying struggle to avoid capture/repatriation and guide her family to freedom.

As a child growing up in North Korea, Hyeonseo Lee was one of millions trapped by a secretive and brutal communist regime. Her home on the border with China gave her some exposure to the world beyond the confines of the Hermit Kingdom and, as the famine of the 1990s struck, she began to wonder, question and to realise that she had been brainwashed her entire life. Given the repression, poverty and starvation she witnessed surely her country could not be, as she had been told “the best on the planet”?

Aged seventeen, she decided to escape North Korea. She could not have imagined that it would be twelve years before she was reunited with her family.


‘The most riveting TED talk ever’ Oprah

‘Harrowing’ Wired

‘A sad and beautiful story of a girl who could not even keep her name, yet overcame all with the identity of what it is to be human’ Jang Jin-sung, author of ‘Dear Leader’

‘Stirring and brave … true, committed, unvarnished and honest. Lee has made her own life the keyhole to the present, inside and outside of North Korea’ Scotsman

‘Remarkable bravery fluently recounted’ Kirkus

About the author

Hyeonseo Lee grew up in North Korea but escaped to China in 1997. In 2008, after more than 10 years there, she came to Seoul, South Korea, where she struggled to adjust to life in the bustling city. Recently graduated from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, she has become a regular speaker on the international stage fostering human rights and awareness of the plight of North Koreans. She is an advocate for fellow refugees, even helping close relatives leave North Korea. Her TED talk has been viewed nearly 4m times. She is married to her American husband Brian Gleason and currently lives in South Korea.


  • Unforgettable!

    By TJ in LA
    AMAZING! I will never ever forget this woman's journey, and that of her family. I am overwhelmed with respect and empathy. Thank you for sharing your story!
  • Powerful

    By Milatony
    I read mountain climbing books about the capacity of human survival. This book got my attention for different reasons and did not disappoint!
  • Amazing

    By Rachenoelle
    This is a must-read. It was so compelling and really opened my eyes to the realities of life in North Korea.
  • Amazing!

    By SarahClark8
    A very eye opening, well-written, and captivating memoir! Thank you for sharing your life’s story.
  • Amazing

    By mom of 3 2019
    Just amazing how you don’t know what is truly going on til you hear it. Highly recommend
  • Wow….an amazing journey. Riveting!

    By SkyForce007
    I could not put this book down once I started reading. My heart goes out to these survivors and helps me realize through America’s imperfections just how good we have it here. Counting my blessings. So thankful for this story at Christmas.
  • Amazing

    By Small town Girly girl
    Simply the best book I’ve read. I could not put it down.
  • Keep Reading It!

    By QluMe
    I downloaded this book and stepped away from it a couple of times because although I was interested in the subject, the sophomoric writing kept losing my attention. Well, I picked it back up tonight at about a third of the way through, and didn’t stop reading til the end. I’m not a “high literature” kind of person so I don’t know if I just wasn’t in the mood the first couple of tries, or if it’s that the story became so enthralling that I no longer noticed the writing style. Anyway, the point is, I highly recommend this book and please power through til you get to the point that you can’t stop reading this amazing story of human perseverance. It’s so educational and deeply humbling while being totally fascinating. Thank you for sharing your remarkable and amazing story, Hyeonseo!
  • An amazing story of determination and intelligence, a defection fromNorth Korea!

    By Mary Ward Taylor
    She was 17 when she decided to slip away for a few days from North Korea to visit relatives in South Korea. That naive and dangerous act changed her life forever, along with her younger brother and her mother. She is now 41. Well worth reading.
  • Excellent read

    By BC book nut
    Best book I have read in a long time!