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The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by [Chol-Hwan, Kang, Rigoulot, Pierre]
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The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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Length: 256 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Review

One of the most terrifying memoirs I have ever read. As the first such account to emerge from North Korea, it is destined to become a classic. - Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking


I beseech you to read this account

- Christopher Hitchens

About the Author

Kang Chol-Hwan lives and works in Seoul, South Korea. Pierre Rigoulot is one of the contributing editors to The Black Book of Communism, an international bestseller that has been published in twenty-eight languages.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 797 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0465011020
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Dec. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00A25NM2Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #58,677 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a rare and important account of life inside North Korea, and the first account to emerge from its concentration camps. If (as I did) you visit the Hermit kingdom, you will find that it is impossible to penetrate the country's smothering blanket of totalitarian propaganda. Kang Chol-Hwan illuminates the grisly reality behind the official scenes of happy peasants and workers who learn to adore the "dear leader" and hate everyone else from the moment they can talk. He tells the awful but irresistable story of how his family foolishly gave up the good life in Japan, returned to North Korea and ended up down the toilet of Kim Il-sung's evil system. He was nine years old when he entered the camp. It was ten years before he came out.
His account confirms all the worst fears about North Korea: the mindlessness, the cruelty, the desperation and the petty corruption. It's the last which gives some hope of change, since it proves that even these brainwashed automata are human deep down and the desire for a better life has run deep cracks in the utterly awful regime.
The author is a tough cookie and a canny survivor, making the book more uplifting than depressing. Kang's story of his escape is especially rewarding. Of course a happier ending -- reunion with his family, downfall of the regime -- would be too much to wish for. Similar literature from other countries often made me despair, but this book made me feel like actually doing something about the problem and I'm sure it will turn many readers into passionate activists. It will help that Kang's book is much easier reading than much other Gulag literature, such as Solzhenitsyn.
Everyone who wants to understand the world we live in, not just the mad, dark corner that is North Korea, should read this book.
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Format: Paperback
This is the third book that I have read on the subject of North Korea in quick succession, the others, being 'Nothing to Envy' by Barbara Demmick and 'This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood' by Hyok Kang. All three have lived up to my expectations, in terms of what I am learning about this hermit kingdom. The strength of the characters that we meet in these books defies belief and Kang Chol-Hwan is no exception. I struggle to get my head around what life was really like for these totally courageous people. I suppose the problem for the rest of us living in the west is that we have only known freedom and have no concept of what it would be like to be so totally controlled by a suffocating regime and not be able to express ourselves in the way we can today.

My curiosity with North Korea continues unabated and I am already reading reviews of books that others have read to help me decide which book i should read on the subject next.

I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in learning about those who have managed to escape this totslly opressive regime!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In "Aquariums of Pyongyang", Kang Chol-Hwan describes his experiences within Yodok gulag (concentration camp)in N. Korea.
Kang Chol-Hwan's account traces the Korean War to the 1990's, however most of the action takes place during the author's own life, particularly the 80's/90's. What makes the book all the more riveting (and the reader feel painfully impotent) is that fact that Yodok and many similar camps are still in unchanged operation today.
The book suffers slightly from the dual translation into french and then english, resulting in some obscure words and rhythm. This however isn't too much of a problem. The book seems to flow better after a few chapters.
Since the author was in Yodok for the majority of the book (with no contact with the outside world) those looking for a political history of N.Korea may be better served elsewhere. This book remains however a fascinating insight into N.Korea's ideology and methods of controlling it's citizens.
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Format: Hardcover
There is not a great deal of information available about North Korea so 'Aquariums of Pyongyang' by Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot provides an insight into life in the so-called hermit kingdom. A hard line Stalinist dictatorship, North Korean society is characterised by its lack of personal freedoms, corrupt bureaucracy, constant surveillance by security agents and 'snitches' and the ever-present threat of being sent to one of the country's many prison camps.
Due to an undisclosed 'transgression' against the state committed by his grandfather, Kang's family is sent to camp 15 in the Yodok region. Having lived a relatively privileged life in Pyongyang, the nine-year-old Kang is completely unprepared for what lies ahead.
Throughout Kang's ten year stay at the camp there is never enough food or clothing, adult and child inmates are beaten, brutalised and forced to watch public executions. All the while the inmates are told that they are there because Kim Il-Sung, North Korea's revered 'Great Leader', has been generous enough to grant them a chance at rehabilitation.
Kang notes that the struggle to survive the harsh conditions strips the camp's inmates of their humanity and dignity rendering them little better than animals. In spite of the dehumanising existence Kang suffers in the camp he hears stories of other worse places from where there is never any hope of either release or escape such as the dreaded Senghori camp.
Despite the hardships he endured, the beatings he received and the public executions he was forced to watch Kang can be considered to be one of the luckier ones. He managed to escape from North Korea and his account is one of the first to appear in the wider world.
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