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An uncensored look at life in North Korea.
on 25 September 2013
The true story of growing up in the worlds most secretive state and the extraordinary circumstances belonging to the life of Kang Chol-Hwan.
I don't often read memoirs as there's so many of them about, they usually consist of a story told 100 times before and it's hard to be interested in the lives of A/B/C list 'celebs'. But Kang Chol-Hwan's story really caught my imagination and gave me a glimpse into a world darkly fascinating.
Brought up in the family of North Koreans recently reintegrated from Japan to Pyongyang, Chol-Hwan spent 10 years of his (so-called) youth in a horrific concentration camp, before fleeing the country and telling the world the real story about what actually goes on where Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il are worshiped like gods. After being indoctrinated into the 'party's propaganda and seeing the brutal work of the 'hermit kingdom's policies at their worst, there's a fascinating story here to tell.
The story was told in Korean before being published in French then translated in English and a lot of other reviews have drawn attention to this but I found it very well written and compelling in spite of this. The book was a little short and more time could have been addressed to the escape from the North , but it was covered and not much was ommited (from what I can tell). The author didn't dwell too often on his despair at the time but managed to convey his feelings without destroying the thread of the narrative (a personal bug bare of mine is overly 'woe is me' narratives). I did have a few questions about some minor points on the story but it doesn't take away from the experience as this may be concise, but is a wonderful eye-opener I'm really glad I came across.