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3.7 out of 5 stars31
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 2 March 2006
I've been reading pretty much every book on North Korea I could get my hands on over the past few years, and each new release fills me with joy. "Comrades and Strangers," "Aquariums...," "This Is Paradise!", Erik Cornell's fascinating account and of course Guy Delisle's delightful graphic novel on Pyongyang all figure among my favourite books. Naturally I couldn't resist ordering "North Korean Memoirs" as soon as I'd read the synopsis. And if even half of what's in there is true, it is surely the most fascinating account of any first-hand experience of the country I've come across thus far.
What I cannot ignore though is that this book apparently hasn't come within a mile of a proofreader. Never ever have I read a book with so many spelling errors, mistakes of sheer negligence, bad grammar and diabolical syntax. Shame on the publishers!
If you can live with that though, do buy this, it's absolutely riveting.
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on 26 February 2005
Mark Treston, the author of North Korean Memoirs, writes of a historical fiction with a unique style of narrating as if his excerpts are based on real stories. After the intro, for a moment, it seemed as if Mark were going to directly flashback to David's journal; however, readers are taken aback when they observe that the narrator speaks of his past, which indirectly symbolizes Communism in North Korea or the characteristics of Socialism.
The narrator's early childhood embeds every inch of Communist's ideal lifestyle as he grows up in San Francisco. His life is isolated by both of his parents and by his neighbors. It is as if he is brain washed, blinded by the truth. This type of life style shares similarity with the life of the main actor in the movie, "Truman Show," where the main actor lives in a world where everyone knows the truth but himself. He is the only one fooled by the filming. Although the narrator is not fooled in this book, he is forcefully kept back by his parents in seeing the world outside of San Francisco. Geographical barrier, which is Pacific Ocean, adds to his desperate feelings to experience the outside world. Furthermore, readers can see the truth easily if they see the comparison between North Korea and San Francisco; Kim Jong Il aided by his regime and the narrator's parents. The only source to knowing the outer world is to have deep connections with Chinese immigrants. The author starts out North Korean Memoirs with several literary techniques that serve as partial foreshadowing and profound ideas full of symbolisms.
As the story continues, more ideas of communism appear through the narrator's mood. The author gives a clue, giving answers to "what expectations can communism bear if they are informed that they are allowed to move to an alienated country." In the beginning of chapter two, the narrator is full of excitement. He gets the chance to know all he wants to know about Korea. Yet, everything visible is a mystery to the narrator. This is the same idea in which communists, especially North Koreans, believe in the existence of only five countries: North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, and the United States. North Koreans are so isolated that they have no clue as to what is going on around them or above them. This is the same way that the narrator feels when he leaves San Francisco and moves to South Korea.
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on 11 March 2013
This is the third book that I have read recently about North Korea. The other two 'Nothing to Envy' and 'The Aquariums of Pyongyang' concern the lives of ordinary North Koreans but give little insight regarding those who actually run the country, as such it is possible to be left with the impression that the people are simply victims of the zealous pursuit of ideology. Sadly, on reading this book the truth appears to be that the ruling Kim family are simply gangsters whose only cause is their own power and enrichment, a cause that they pursue with utter ruthlessness and complete disregard for the welfare of their people. The scale of corruption and decadence among the privileged few is almost as shocking as the inhuman treatment of the ordinary people. I was left thinking that the best thing for North Korea would be Chinese invasion and occupation.

I would advise that this book is not well-written and some parts are excruciatingly boring (a chapter regarding a trip outside North Korea is best skipped over).

Also, I can not understand how the diarist has not been identified. US defectors to North Korea are few in number and are listed on Wikipedia. The diarist apparently appeared in over fifty propaganda films, it is just not credible that his true identity is unknown.
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on 26 February 2005
Mark Treston, the author of North Korean Memoirs, writes of a historical fiction with a unique style of narrating as if his excerpts are based on real stories. After the intro, for a moment, it seemed as if Mark were going to directly flashback to David's journal; however, readers are taken aback when they observe that the narrator speaks of his past, which indirectly symbolizes Communism in North Korea or the characteristics of Socialism.
The narrator's early childhood embeds every inch of Communist's ideal lifestyle as he grows up in San Francisco. His life is isolated by both of his parents and by his neighbors. It is as if he is brain washed, blinded by the truth. This type of life style shares similarity with the life of the main actor in the movie, "Truman Show," where the main actor lives in a world where everyone knows the truth but himself. He is the only one fooled by the filming. Although the narrator is not fooled in this book, he is forcefully kept back by his parents in seeing the world outside of San Francisco. Geographical barrier, which is Pacific Ocean, adds to his desperate feelings to experience the outside world. Furthermore, readers can see the truth easily if they see the comparison between North Korea and San Francisco; Kim Jong Il aided by his regime and the narrator's parents. The only source to knowing the outer world is to have deep connections with Chinese immigrants. The author starts out North Korean Memoirs with several literary techniques that serve as partial foreshadowing and profound ideas full of symbolisms.
As the story continues, more ideas of communism appear through the narrator's mood. The author gives a clue, giving answers to "what expectations can communism bear if they are informed that they are allowed to move to an alienated country." In the beginning of chapter two, the narrator is full of excitement. He gets the chance to know all he wants to know about Korea. Yet, everything visible is a mystery to the narrator. This is the same idea in which communists, especially North Koreans, believe in the existence of only five countries: North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, and the United States. North Koreans are so isolated that they have no clue as to what is going on around them or above them. This is the same way that the narrator feels when he leaves San Francisco and moves to South Korea.
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on 12 July 2015
Awful. Awful. Awful. Horrendously written and, even worse, it's all completely and utterly untrue. Whoever wrote this drivel has clearly read a few books and seen a few docus about DPRK and decided to write a fictional account. To anybody who knows anything about DPRK this is really so obviously a load of BS.

I believe this story was written by Treston himself after living in East Asia and wanting to make a fast buck on his limited knowledge of the DPRK and from second hand sources.

I'm really angry that there are people who believe this to be a true account. Let's ignore the glaringly obvious fact that ANY American defector would have been HUGE news, but just the way in which it's written and the protagonists interractions with people make it so unbearably obvious that its fiction. The protagonist is smug, condescending and massively unlikable. There are no redeeming features about this story. I imagine the 5 star reviews are from people who know little about the DPRK and don't read often.

I should've known better....an American 'CIA' agent defects to North Korea, then escapes and nobody in the world knew about it!!!????? I'm ashamed that I spent money on this. Seriously. Worst Amazon purchase in ten years.
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on 14 March 2016
Now I'm very confused. Like many readers I assumed this to be a true story. Having read the reviews (unfortunately after purchasing the book) it seems as though it's probably a work of fiction. The grammar is really bad as are the accounts of the so-called writer's tales of his sexual encounters and why he had to write so much about his trip to Japan is beyond my comprehension. Even if true it added nothing to the book. If indeed it is a work of fiction then it amounts to propaganda and worse propaganda than is perpetrated by the North Koreans against the west. In particular, America. I have read many books about North Korea and the regime is bad enough without making up stories. I would urge anyone with a similar interest to me to choose one or more of the many excellent true first-hand accounts available on Amazon. Don'l waste money and hours of your life on this rubbish. I hope the author comes clean and clears up any misunderstandings.
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on 9 August 2012
Well written and once i started this book could not put it down. It is a rare insight into the Life of North Korea, and the corruption and cruelty that happens in the county. At times you just want to shout out and tell him to run and get out as fast and as far as he can. A fascinating and extremly good read
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on 23 November 2014
Very well written, just wondered how David could have written it in two weeks? This made me think it might have been made up as well as this, the deep reminiscing about his sexual conquests didn't seem to have anything to do with the message he was trying to pass on. Fascinating account of the young Kim's sexual behaviour however. Clearly giving us a much more indepth understanding of this sociopath dictator and an over all insight into a very twisted regime which we could never have know about otherwise. We never find out what became of David, but for his own safety I'm guessing that's just as well. He may have been a stupid youth but he survived and for that, an amazing man who endured so much suffering. Thank you for sharing David, if you ever read this and Mark for making it possible.
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on 22 February 2005
This is the first novel that deals with North Korea in such an extensive manner. The book starts out a little slow, due to the fact that the author feels compelled to give the read a background to North Korea and the characters. However, the momentum continues to build afterthat. It is definitely worth reading. I think I learned from this novel than any other (Except Da Vinci Code) in a long time.
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on 7 August 2012
This is a good story and is fast paced, well written for the most part and interesting throughout. Was it though, really written by an American defector as claimed?
I don't think so. While the story for the most part is well written, there are some sentence structures that are badly constructed throughout the book. I don't mean simple typos, but the subtle nuances of language and phrasing of such that separates someone with a good command of English as opposed to the superiority of a native speaker.
Furthermore, the language at times reads very like it would sound from a speaker from South East`Asia, if a well educated one and possibly a University professor.
I think this story has been probably written by a North Korean native who has been fortunate enough to escape to China and who wants to spice up the story somewhat by throwing the American defector story into the pot and to distinguish this story from other's that are currently doing the rounds.
The Author certainly knows North Korea and it's idiosyncrasies very well, but how much of what's claimed within is true and how much is simply conjecture or even fiction? Who knows?
I did enjoy the read, but some doubt will always exist in my mind as to the authenticity of the material; or I would have rated it higher.
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