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Dear Leader: North Korea's senior propagandist exposes shocking truths behind the regime [Hardcover]

Jang Jin-Sung
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
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Book Description

8 May 2014

Dear Leader contains astonishing new insights about North Korea which could only be revealed by someone working high up in the regime. It is also the gripping story of how a member of the inner circle of this enigmatic country became its most courageous, outspoken critic.

Jang Jin-sung held one of the most senior ranks in North Korea's propaganda machine, helping tighten the regime's grip over its people. Among his tasks were developing the founding myth of North Korea, posing undercover as a South Korean intellectual and writing epic poems in support of the dictator, Kim Jong-il.

Young and ambitious, his patriotic work secured him a bizarre audience with Kim Jong-il himself, thus granting him special status as one of the 'Admitted'. This meant special food provisions, a travel pass and immunity from prosecution and harm. He was privy to state secrets, including military and diplomatic policies, how the devastating 'Scrutiny' was effected, and the real position of one of the country's most powerful, elusive men, Im Tong-ok. Because he was praised by the Dear Leader himself, he had every reason to feel satisfied with his lot and safe.

Yet he could not ignore his conscience, or the disparity between his life and that of those he saw starving on the street. After breaking security rules, Jang Jin-sung, together with a close friend, was forced to flee for his life: away from lies and deceit, towards truth and freedom.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Rider (8 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846044197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846044199
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A searing true story that takes the reader to some of the most frightening places on earth...utterly compelling...real lyricism...As an historical document, this is an enormously important book that deserves the widest possible readership. As a story of survival, it is an instant classic." (The Times)

"Extraordinary...exciting...A rare portrait of life and death in North Korea...This year a United Nations commission of enquiry found that the Kim regime has committed crimes against humanity. The commission warned China that its treatment of Koreans violated international law. It recommended that the case be tried by the International Criminal Court or a UN tribunal. One day that will happen, and this book will be part of the indictment." (Sunday Times)

"As one of the most prominent North Koreans in exile in South Korea, Jang Jin-sung is eminently placed to interpret North Korea...His memoirs change the way we look at the country...they offer a radically different explanation of who holds power in North Korea and the historical sequence of events leading up to this situation. As such they are an absolute must-read for those who wish to formulate a sensible action plan [for the country]." (Remco Breuker, Professor of Korean Studies, University of Leiden)

"A fascinating insider account. a testament to Mr Jang's literary flair" (Economist)

"Harrowing...important and convincing...A major contribution to understanding what appears to be a nation impossible to understand" (Observer)

Book Description

A rare and extraordinary glimpse into the reality of life in North Korea, by a member of the powerful elite

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Phillip
This book is the sort that can save lives – hopefully even 25 million of them. It is the most absorbing read that this reader has had in many years. Why is it better than the many noteworthy books on North Korea that have been published before? Because it was written by a high level insider - one of the country’s chief propagandists - who also happens to be an articulate and sensitive writer, with a vastly different perspective from that of a Westerner or a "common" (if there can be such a characterization) North Korean escapee.

It's not just a searing indictment of the Kim dynasty or a political dissertation that details the organization and functioning of a Stalinist dictatorship. It's not just an intimate account of unimaginable human suffering that has been inflicted on a nation’s population over the past few decades by an evil regime. It's not just a thrill-a-minute international espionage story that follows two high-value defectors as they flee, starving and penniless, across the winter landscape of Korea and Northern China, hunted by security forces from both countries. In fact, it is all of these story lines, plus more. The range of its setting stretches from privilege to privation. It is a depiction of a place that seems surreal and hallucinogenic, though it is only too real. It is a story of a man’s awakening from a blinkered life to a wide world beyond his imagining – both its horrors and beauty. It is about his coming to terms with terrible truths and the equally terrible lies that he had helped to perpetrate. It is a buddy story about two young men on the run who share every human emotion possible – from valor to shame to frailty to brotherly love. And perhaps most importantly, it is an epic poem, written by a talented story teller.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Clearly it's impossible to know how much of this book is true and the author's escape from North Korea in particular, seems to have involved so much good luck that it stretches credibility a bit, but having said that, this book offers a fascinating insight into life in the Orwellian nightmare that is North Korea and confirms that living under the bonkers regime of the Kim's is as bad, if not worse than it has been painted by the western press. It also helps that the book reads like a thriller and the translator has done an excellent job of keeping the prose clear and the narrative bouncing along.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! 19 Jun 2014
By M. D. Holley TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is a rare find - one of those books you just can't bear to put down, and which is over all too soon. An excellent adventure story, describing the author's perilous escape from North Korea, which keeps you on the edge of your seat right to the very end of the book. If you like films such as 'the Great Escape', you'll love this. And how astonishing to imagine these events happening in 2004!

But this is so much more. The author is a gifted artist, something of a child prodigy as a musician and as a poet, and it shows. This book is extremely well crafted though out and is beautifully written. No doubt there is some slight embellishment in the name of poetic licence, but this is fully justified in the name of getting the deeper truths out to the widest possible audience. In the meantime I shall seek out his poetry, if I can find it in English.

The message buried within the story is of profound significance. It reveals crucial details about the working of the regime and should be read by all politicians and diplomats involved in any way. And for those of us living in privileged circumstances, it reminds us to cherish and work to preserve our freedoms.

Finally, the story is deeply moving - I was close to tears by the end.

I give it the highest possible recommendation.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and completely gripping 14 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having heard Jang Jin Sung speak at Kings Place recently, I was interested to read his account of his escape from his homeland, N Korea. My only regret was not reading this account of his escape before seeing him. Although distinguishing between Korean names was hard for my Anglo ears the insight into this terrifying world was a remarkable and although we have our difficulties here in the UK it made me feel very lucky to live in a democracy where we can take our freedom so much for granted.
I thoroughly recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An insight into North Korea 29 July 2014
By Amanda Jenkinson TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Jang Jin-sung was a member of North Korea’s élite. He was a court poet to the ruling Kim family and a propagandist working in a secret government department that waged psychological warfare on South Korea, trying to convince that country that all is well in the North. He even met Kim Jong Il himself on becoming one of the “Admitted” when still only in his 20s. Privileges undreamt of by most of the population of North Korea were his for the taking. But it all came to an end when he lent a forbidden book to a friend and it was left on a train. Soon traced back to Jang, he and the friend had no option but to flee their country.
Much of the book is taken up with the account of their life on the run until Jang makes it to relative safety in South Korea, but much of the real interest of the book is the account of life in North Korea, and I occasionally found myself bored with the trials and tribulations of his escape, all of which felt somewhat familiar from other escape narratives. But the descriptions of the life of a privileged member of society, the kind of work he was engaged on and passages when he explains the historical and political background I very much enjoyed. I wish more of the book had been about his life before he had to flee.
In spite of my personal reservations, this is an important and extremely interesting account of North Korea and will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about that benighted country. Jung is now working as a poet in the UK, and it may well be that he has more insights to give us. I hope so.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great read!
Seems too lucky a man; but riveting nonetheless. Clearly there remains much unsaid in his accounts to protect future refugees.
Published 15 hours ago by Aiden
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching story of escape from North korea
This is a gripping account of life as one of a privileged minority in North Korea, and how having the luxury of rare glimpses into life in the outside world caused him to question... Read more
Published 6 days ago by B. Middleton
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting read - difficult to know how a nation ...
Very interesting read - difficult to know how a nation can be brain-washed to such a degree, although I suppose imminent death for disaffection probably plays its part.
Published 8 days ago by herbie
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
This is the fourth book I have read about North Korea and is up there with Escape from Camp 14. A must read. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Michael Edwards
4.0 out of 5 stars How the oppressed live.
A disturbing account of life in North Korea told by a privileged member of the elite. Brief excursions into the life of the poor help put his life into perspective, but the details... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Dr George R Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book i have ever read, by far!
An amazing book! You cant put it down, the detail and the story is incredible!
Published 25 days ago by Guy
4.0 out of 5 stars ... on life in North Korea leaves Orwell's 1984 seem like paradise by...
This book on life in North Korea leaves Orwell's 1984 seem like paradise by comparison
Published 29 days ago by Mr. Jonathan Ingrams
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended if you are looking for another informed view on ...
Another fascinating perspective on North Korea. Recommended if you are looking for another informed view on NK to help you piece together an understanding of this unique country.
Published 29 days ago by TimB
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful story of life in North Korea
An incredibly powerful story of a brave escape from the clutches of the North Korean regime. Buy it. Read it
Published 1 month ago by Mr. J. L. Hunter-coddington
This is an extraordinary book amongst the several written by those who have escaped this iniquitous regime. Read more
Published 1 month ago by BRIAN SHARMAN
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