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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars25
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 3 December 2014
I must say that this book is very readable and I'm glad I read it. However I found the author's tone slightly arrogant in his justification for going in undercover as a Professor with the students. Students may have given their permissions but remembering my own naivety at that age, perhaps they are not the best people to judge their own safety. Whilst undercover reporting is justified in relation to North Korea and to be supported, students do not have the experience to make that decision no matter how much information they are given.
Whilst expecting criticism and justified loathing of North Korea's leaders, I did not like the continual sarcasm and childish comments made by the author like "Kims Major and Minor" and "Fat-Boy Kim". Calling them stupid names diminishes the importance off their ruthlessness and the evil regime over which they preside. This flippancy also showed no respect for the poor North Korean people, referring to them as the "Zombie Nation". The style is disappointing and ironically (considering his 'nom de guerre') not at all academic in approach.
That said the book is interesting if as not as full of information as I expected, but I learnt a number of things from it. It dances about in historical terms but gives good background to the Kim dynasty. Interesting too is the link with Garland (Official IRA) and shockingly Gerry Adams and Sin Féin. I am sure that being there and physically witnessing the place makes you very angry and that certainly came across so maybe I am judging the style from a safe place. I suppose I just wish that with all the hard work and energy which went in to writing the book, its importance hadn't been diminished by the writing style. I wanted it to reflect the serious investigative journalism which it set out to be.
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on 13 November 2014
I have read a number of books on North Korea, and this definitely brings value to the field of literature on the subject. I approached it with a little trepidation, having not been overly impressed with John Sweeney's book telling the story of his encounter with the Church of Scientology. This book, however, is far better constructed and edited, and the narrative far more engaging. It is well-researched and referenced, and the interested reader could disappear (in a good way) down rabbit warrens of additional reading through the references. The account of his trip to North Korea and the highly stage-managed tour of the country is interspersed with very interesting personal accounts from escapees from the regime, and some historical notes too. The style of writing is informal, engaging and at times witty. I recommend it to both newcomers to the field, and also to those who have already read something on the subject.
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on 26 March 2015
I have read quite a few books on North Korea now. The problem with this one was that you do not learn anything - the author, like us, cannot quite believe what he sees and hears. He struggles to grasp that such a country exists, and so what we end up with is essentially one man insulting (albeit perfectly justified) the Kims and the regime. He only really sees what the guides want him to see, so all his 'real' information on NK is secondhand. For a true glimpse into NK, read The Aquariums of Pyongyang, Dear Leader, or - most shockingly - Escape from Camp 14
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on 22 November 2013
Great book. Thoroughly enjoyable read, full of fascinating stories and anecdotes that really help you understand what's going on in North Korea. A great insight into life there under Kim rule. I can only assume the previous reviewer has a personal dislike of Sweeney himself. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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on 19 April 2015
some great links to other stories and a good introduction to life in the DPRK but a mixture of unnecessary sarcasm, very poor written style and poor flow lets this book down. considering his background this book reads like written by a 12 year old trying to impress his mates with his 'witty' putdowns. its a shame as some good content in there bt there are many better books on the subject, nothing to envy chief amongst them
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on 17 November 2014
Huge respect to John Sweeney, and another cracking exposé following hot on the heals of The Church Of Evil. His research in to his subject matter is amazing - there are lots of fascinating stories and insights in to the evil Kim empire - but the saddest part is learning about the poor people who live in North Korea under the Kim rule. Faced with starvation or the Gulags, the future for the general population (outside of the ruling elite of course) is bleak. This is a regime that needs to be exposed.

Hugely enjoyable, written in John's usual serious-but-informal manner, I highly recommend this for anyone who is interested in North Korea, or just likes learning about things we don't usually hear about.
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on 20 December 2013
This was a fascinating and sad look at the brutalities and sufferings of the North Korean people behind the walls of the Kim dynasty dictatorship. Thanks to Captain Team America and Dennis Rodman, it's easy to laugh at North Korea as a weird and eccentric oddity but the fact is that it's a horrific repressed regime who's biggest casualties are their own people. I enjoyed the authors Panorama episodes on the BBC about Scientology and North Korea so downloaded the book. The narrative starts off being about John Sweeney's undercover trip into North Korea but I found the interesting material to be the stories of the defectors and escaped former prisoners. I didn't know a lot about North Korea before so I found the book fascinating and sad at the same time.
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on 31 December 2015
This is a silly, shrill, sarcastic book, and surprisingly badly written. "Undercover?" The author goes on a short package tour available to all of us; is discourteous to everyone he meets; does a bit of googling when he gets home; and writes what he seems to think is the definitive profile of DPRK. I have rarely been so cross. For those wanting a dispassionate, scholarly summary of DPRK based on fact, I would recommend 'North Korea Confidential' by Tudor & Pearson.
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on 21 February 2015
North Korea remains an enigma, but Sweeney's book seems a fair summary of what life must be like there for ordinary people. His personal experiences there are interesting and very easy to read.
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on 2 May 2015
A good, well written, easily read book. Doesn't go into too much detail, but enough to get a good grasp of the history and what is going on at present.
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