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4.3 out of 5 stars21
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on 4 May 2013
John Everard does a fine job in describing every-day life in North Korea. I also like it that he describes the life of a foreigner in DPRK. In his preface he says he did so because people asked him all the time what living in DPRK is like. This will not be unfamiliar to those of us who have been to North Korea ourselves even though a guided-tour-experience isn't anywhere near to actually living there.

The book comes in four parts with `Life in the DPRK' and `the DPRK and foreigners' making up over 60% of the book. Part Three deals with the political set-up of the country and also gives a brief history explaining why matters have turned out the way they are. At some point the author mentions that North Korea is not a communist state at all but does remind him of Nazi Germany. I would readily believe that

Part Four is probably the most depressing part of the book, namely, how the world has dealt with North Korea and how well they have failed in this respect. What surprised me is that China seems not to have noticed yet that North Korea is as much a danger to the PRC as it is to her other neighbours. What I didn't like in this section is that the author lists everything that hasn't worked in dealing with DPRK but he makes no alternative suggestions beyond mentioning that alternative approaches will have to be found.

The book reads well and in an understandable manner and I found the author's bibliography rather excellent.

There is a whole range of books published on this subject. If you are interested in further reading on North Korea you might want to have a look at Bradley K. Martin's Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader. I found it a rather good book. The author uses an incredible amount of eye-witness accounts. Another good one is Victor Cha's The Impossible State. The most emotional book I have read on North Korea is Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy.
There is also a host of books written by people who managed to flee North Korea including Kang Chol-Hwan's Aquariums of Pyongyang and Hyok Kang's `This Is Paradise!; and those who were stationed there like this book or Eric Cornell's Report of an Envoy to Paradise and those who lived and worked there quite voluntarily like Michael Harrold Comrades and Strangers (that book's bibliography is also rather excellent). I have only mentioned most of those I have read myself, but there is a whole range of other books on the subject.
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on 30 April 2014
Although three have been many books written about this country this is different. Most books I have read describe life under the leadership. It is usually about the hardships of making a living and just simply staying alive. There are also many books describing the political suppression and the use of the camps.

This book of course covers these aspects but written from the perspective of a diplomat. This means a
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on 17 March 2013
This is the first book I've read on North Korea. The Economist recommended this a few weeks ago. Very easy to read. I believe that the author researched this thoroughly. However it's not wonkish in any way. You get the impression that the author did not struggle with writing as it reads very well, is well laid out and avoids appealing to the views that many of us in the west have of the DPRK. His insights into the economic and political life of those he met are very pertinent given that all we hope to do in the west is wait for a collapse from within. The DPRK might be a greater concern than Iran.
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on 14 August 2015
Even though I liked this book, and it was pretty much as I expected, I would say it needs to be read in conjunction with other books/watched with documentaries and films etc. to gain the whole picture. If read on its own, you would risk to gain a very distorted and unrealistic, somewhat 'soft' version of the reality. This maybe, because of the authors literally 'diplomatic' language, but the impression one would gain from reading this book would be that North Korea is quite a country like any other, even if slightly awkward to live in, sometimes. I am aware that the author was adamant to illustrate that North Koreans are people like any other and not brainwashed automatons, as perhaps perceived. But I did find, that his efforts to illustrate this by portraying their lives like anywhere in the world 'going about their business' simply does not work, because the regime perpetrates every aspect of their lives, and as a result their's is just not like any other's nation in the world. Still, I enjoyed the book.
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on 7 April 2016
I really enjoyed reading this book. Everard writes in a very straightforward, simple manner. Some of the other reviewers didn't seem to appreciate this but it didn't detract from the book at all. Everard organizes the books topically, including farming, schools and food in North Korea, foreigners in North Korea, the diplomatic community in North Korea, North Korea in historical context. One of the topics I found most interesting was his descriptions of life for diplomats in Pyongyang, and also their Korean staff. I had never read anything about it before. Everard by no means supports the North Korean regime but he is very polite in the way he writes about the country and its people, which I appreciated. I hope he writes another book!
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on 12 February 2013
This book is a well written description of life in North Korea. It avoids the polemic, and avoids jumping to any easy solutions; indeed the last chapters make uncomfortable reading for those who believe that regime change will be easily accomplished. The book is a well researched academic volume, but is also readable and human. One only wonders at how the author in his role as a diplomat (and a senior one at that) was able to accomplish so much that is documented. A book to be thoroughly recommended especially at this time of raised tension.
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on 31 December 2013
A lot of information, so good in helping to paint a straight picture of north Korea - not dressed up in prose of the novels or accounts.
However, it can be repetitive in places and sometimes a trudge.
Worth reading if you're selecting several books - but I preferred other books on north Korea, especially Nothing to Envy, then the novel Orphan Master's Sun, a really excellent book.
This is different to those books, obviously a lot drier. But worth reading overall.
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on 13 October 2014
If you are considering visiting North Korea (DPRK) this book will prepare you well for your visit. Its written in a very readable style and is full of information. In my opinion the pace of change in DPRK is very slow in comparison to other places so the information contained will remain current for some time to come.
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on 24 January 2015
A very good book and certainly a unique perspective on the DPRK. The writing style is very accessible and feels very genuine, as if someone is giving it as a presentation or speech.
I would say that I enjoyed Nothing to Envy more though, as an account of first hand stories.
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on 19 April 2014
Highly readable account by an author with an impressive C V. Separates fact from opinion, extrapolation and reasonable a coherent and self admittedly personal picture of a little known country. Stimulating. I finished book in 36 hours.
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