The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: North Korean Gulag… The Aquariums of Pyongyang

Written By: herbrunbridge - May• 06•11

For anyone wishing to know more about what goes on behind the scenes in North Korea, Kang Chol-hwan’s The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag (2000, ISBN 0-465-01102-0) is  a must- read.

Kang’s expat North Korean family became wealthy in Japan and had a good life. At the urging of his Communist grandmother, the entire family decided to relocate back home, where they were promised all the well-to-do trappings of their lives in Japan. Immediately after returning, the realized they’d made a mistake. Beginning with relinquishing the family’s treasured Volvo, they were systematically robbed of everything they owned by the government, and all, with the exception of Kang’s mother, were sent to the remote and bleak concentration camp at Yodok. Hard work, poor food (rats and insects supplemented their meager fare), cold, and sickness accompanied political indoctrination.

AsiaPromoBannerThe treacherous practice of fooling wealthy and educated expats to come back home was identical to the technique used by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to exterminate much of its population, and the story of Kang and his co-author Pierre Rigoulot reads pretty much out of the textbook of Josef Stalin. The book is fascinating, compelling, and horrifying all at once, and essential reading for anyone interested in the North Korea-South Korea dynamic, doctrinaire Communism, or the North Korean empire established by Kim Il-sung and continued by Kim Jong-il. Buy it now at the WoWasis estore, powered by Amazon.

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One Comment

  1. […] Korea has spawned a number of books on the government and the prison system. Kang Chol-hwan’s The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag is a formidable example of prison literature, but leaves out an important element: just what is […]

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