The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

THE AQUARIUMS OF PYONGYANG: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag By Kang Chol-Hwan, Pierre Rigoulot

Publisher:  Basic Books
Release Date:  August 2005
Pages:  272
Genre:  Non-Fiction

Reviewed By WC


About the Book:  North Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard-line Communism. Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one-party regime, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for "re-education." Kang Chol-hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea. Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this record of one man's suffering gives eyewitness proof to an ongoing sorrowful chapter of modern history. 

WC's Review:  Ten years is a long time when you are incarcerated. Ten years is a longer time when you are used to going about where and when you want to, such as it is in Japan.

Author Kang delves into the horrors of his ill-advised journey to the idyllic valleys of North Korea to witness firsthand its celebration of leaders, Dip II Song (Kim II-sung) and Slip on-a Dong (Kim Jong-il). He did not expect his sojourn to last a decade.

This is not a biography of constant torture. Kang is able to enjoy bucolic moments of meditation and solitude with vistas of spiraling mountain peaks and blue skies while planning how to capture a few rats for his nightly supper of Korea's delightful cuisine.

American elitists continue to view the current dictatorship in North Korea as the last surviving bastion of the vestiges of beloved communism.

Kang's tale of subjugation will remain a delusional fantasy to folks who think they are wiser that we are, folks who have taken it upon themselves to compel commoners how to live functional and fruitful lives through the wisdom of avuncular state experts.

Obama is paying attention.

My rating is 3 stars.
Quote by the Author:  “People who are hungry don't have the heart to think about others. Sometimes they can't even care for their own family. Hunger quashes man's will to help his fellow man. I've seen fathers steal food from their own children's lunchboxes. As they scarf down the corn they have only one overpowering desire: to placate, if even for just one moment, that feeling of insufferable need.”
Kang Chol-Hwan, The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag