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The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Kang Chol-Hwan , Pierre Rigoulot , Yair Reiner
4.7 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)

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From Publishers Weekly

North Korea is among the most opaque nations on earth, its regime noted for repression and for the personality cult of its father and son leaders, the late Kim Il Sung and his successor, Kim Jong Il. Kang Chol-hwan draws from firsthand experience in explaining the repression. After the division of North and South Korea, Kang's family returned to North Korea from Japan, where his grandparents had emigrated in the 1930s and where his grandfather had amassed a fortune and his grandmother became a committed Communist. They were fired with idealism and committed to building an edenic nation. Instead, the family was removed without trial to a remote concentration camp, apparently because the grandfather was suspected of counter-revolutionary tendencies. Kang Chol-hwan was nine years old when imprisoned at the Yodok camp in 1977. Over the next ten years, he endured inhumane conditions and deprivations, including an inadequate diet (supplemented by frogs and rats), regular beatings, humiliations and hard labor. Inexplicably released in 1987, the author states that the only lesson his imprisonment had "pounded into me was about man's limitless capacity to be vicious." Kang's memoir is notable not for its literary qualities, but for the immediacy and drama of the personal testimony. The writing, as translated by Reiner, is unadorned but serviceable, a style suited to presenting one man's account of a brutalized childhood. Kang now lives in South Korea, where he is a journalist; his co-author Rigoulot was a contributor to The Black Book of Communism. Together, they have added a chapter to the tales of horror that have come out of Asia in recent years.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Most readers know of the politically bleak and economically disastrous history of North Korea. This affecting and directly written memoir will help make that history personal and specific. Kang, who escaped from North Korea in 1992 and now lives in Seoul, writes with the help of Rigoulot, editor of The Black Book of Communism (LJ 11/1/99). They tell the story of the Kang family, who became prosperous members of the Korean community in Japan in the 1930s but returned to North Korea out of sympathy in the 1960s. At first they lived comparatively well, but soon they ran afoul of paranoid political repression and became one of the many victims of the Korean prison work camps. The details of the gulag are depressingly familiar from memoirs of other Stalinist regimes, but this work is nonetheless important to record and witness. Charles W. Hayford, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great Book ! 14 septembre 2013
Par IamEden
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
The book shows the downfall of a Korean family that came back from Japan to live under the communist regime. It shows both life in Pyongyang and life in the camps, as well as life after the camps. It is an interesting read, to read in parallel with "Escape from camp 14" and "Nothing to Envy".
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4.0 étoiles sur 5 Informative and very moving 27 septembre 2013
Format:Format Kindle
The courage of this man in face of so many hardships and the way he is able to relate his experience are truly remarkable.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 temoignage extraordinaire 22 septembre 2013
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Un plongée dans l'univers nord coréen vu de l'intérieur qui mérite d'être lue, avec l'espoir ténu de la sortie de l'état prison qui finit par se réaliser.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.6 étoiles sur 5  235 commentaires
244 internautes sur 250 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Thank you 100xs-over to Mr. Kang 24 novembre 2002
Par beechew - Publié sur
I'm surprised to read some of these critiques and find that individuals feel the need to discount this book for literary shortcomings and typos. The story itself is a strong one and I was more than willing to forgive this man for misspelling "kidnapings" in exchange for his horrific tale of the years lost in a North Korean concentration camp. It amazes me that some disregard these pages as "really nothing new" -- a very inhumane response to a very vivid and compelling account of abominable human rights injustices. This isn't fiction here; this REALLY happened and deserves the understanding that this man is sharing HIS story and not trying to write the next "War and Peace."
Kang Chol-Hwan has shared his amazing journey from one world to another. In order to share the reality of life under a loathsome, hateful regime that does nothing but systematically starve and kill its people, he risks the well-being of himself and loved ones. I read his story and was deeply moved. Being half a world away, it's difficult to fathom that such horrid injustices occur in our modern society.
I am a Korean-American and live a much more sheltered and protected life than many on this earth. I am deeply appreciative to my parent's for coming to the U.S. in order to give their children a better life. They were only children during the Korean War and had their fair share of hunger and hardships. They walked the long, death-ridden highway with the masses towards hopefully a better life in the South. They were among the fortunate. Many saw their families torn apart and kidnapped back to the North.
Reunification is inevitable. This seems to be the sentiments of many. It's only a matter of time before the North just can't hang on any longer without the help of its affluent sister in the south.
A great many thank you's to Mr. Kang for sharing his life.
111 internautes sur 122 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 aquariums of pyongyang 13 novembre 2001
Par "yoooh-sea-ooh" - Publié sur
"Aquariums in Pyongyang" is an incredible story of survival and triumph over evil and hardship. Kang chol-Hawn was an upper middle class child of idealistic Koreans living in Japan when his parents returned to the North Korean "Workers Paradise" that was in the making of North Korea of the early 1960's. The reality of course, they soon discovered, was far from the communist propaganda that his mother was so taking in by. By the age of nine Kang was sent to a gulag and in it he endured all that one would expext from a communist gulag, beatings, starvation, hard labor, communist propaganda and brain washing. Not many people survived ten years in a North Korean gulag fewer still managed to later escape to the west or in Kang's case South Korea. None before have written a book about such experiences and that makes "Aquariums in Pyongyang" a unique book. One of the amazing things about this book aside from the story it's self is that Kang manages to not only detail the horror but also display quite a bit of humor albeit largely sacastic humor such as a chapter titled "ten years in the camp: thank you, Kim Il Sung" Another chapter entitled Biweekly Criticism and self-criticism is filled with sacastic humor that can make you laugh out loud even if you feel a little guilty doing so knowing the suffering of the gulags prisonors. Aquariums is a excellent book that will challage your views of North Korea no matter what your political views are. an excellent read definitly reccomended
69 internautes sur 75 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 a must-read for an understanding of north korea 11 juin 2003
Par Merrily Baird - Publié sur
Other reviewers have already noted the importance of this book in documenting the pervasive pattern and Kafkaesque quality of human rights violations in North Korea, so I shall concentrate instead on what other help this book offers for penetrating the veil of secrecy in which P'yongyang wraps itself.
In the past decade or so, there has been an explosion of Western interest in North Korea that has contributed substantially to a better understanding of P'yongyang's policy priorities and problems. Of particular note in this regard are two publications: "North Korea: Through the Looking Glass," an elegant and balanced study published by the Brookings Institute, and "Kim Il-song's North Korea," which presents the meticulously- detailed research undertaken by Helen Louise Hunter while she was still with the CIA. Both of these publications benefitted from the exploitation of defector information, but their homogenized findings still lack a sense of ground truth, and it is in this regards that Kang Chol-hwan's account of his life in North Korea is so valuable apart from its obvious importance on the human rights front.
"Aquariums of Pyongyang" provides a considerable body of anecdotal information that documents several trends which, North Korean government pronouncements make clear, are of increasing concern to the central government. These trends are rising hooliganism, especially on the part of youth gangs; rampant corruption and bribery in nearly all sectors of society; and a surprising underground use of currency (not always North Korean) in an economy that has traditionally been described as non-monetarized. Neither collectively nor individually are these trends underwriting an organized opposition, but they have substantially eroded both government control of the citizenry and public faith in the regime's relevancy and attractiveness. Also answered by "Aquariums of Pyongyang" are such questions as what happens to the goods and cash that the Japanese send to relatives in North Korea; how North Koreans manage escapes to China; and how the lives of the privileged few differ from those of the multitudes. "Aquariums" is especially well-paired with Hunter's book, which defines the vocabulary of everyday life in North Korea.
20 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Cultural Insights into North Korea 23 mars 2002
Par Kawaiineko - Publié sur
Back in graduate school now, my professor, a world-renowned international developmentalist, asked me to write a paper discussing how economic development changed the culture of Korea. My search for books that may give me "clues" to what current culture is like in North Korea led me to this book. North Korea is where my grand parents are from and where both my parents were born. My parents are both 61 years old. My grand parents left North Korea in 1953 and my parents left Korea in the in the early 1970s. If it weren't for my ancestors, I may have lived my life in Pyongyang instead of the previledged life I lead in the West.
I am no culturalist but North Korea, as a corrupted Stalinist cum cultist state is now very much different from South Korea. In South Korea, previledged rich kids drive their own automobiles whereas in North Korea, the fields are tilled by ox-drawn carts. In South Korea, bottles of Western scotch is drunk in night clubs where tabs come up to hundreds of dollars a pop and designer wears are de rigour with young college kids who indulge in decadences such as elective plastic surgery. In North Korea, hundreds of thousands of kids are stunted from malnourishment. I can't think of two more diametric cultures that could have emerged amongest one group of people: abject poverty and outrageous decandence. I am not judging South Korea nor am sympathetic to the North, I am just pointing out the stark differences. Anyway, if you want to know more about North Korea, this is a first-person account of someone who lived in a Korean gulag from the 1980s to the 1990s. The person who lived this life, Kang Chol-Hwan, is only about 34 years old in 2002.
To recap: In 2002, there are two Koreas, one the 7th largest economy in the world, the other where 2 to 3 million people are reported to have died of famine during 1995 to 1999: that's 10 percent of the population of North Korea. To wit, now there are two Koreas with two cultures. 50 years of separation and experiements in autarky vs. free-market economics (albeit, an Asian version) is the cause.
This book gave me a first-hand account of what life is like in North Korea. It is reader friendly and informative. Along with USAID (US International Agency for Development) Director Andrew S. Natsios book called "The Great North Korean Famine," I got a some ideas about what is happening in North Korea in the late 1990s to the present.
A good read if you are interested in what life is like for some North Koreans.
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A disturbing look into the world's last Stalinist country........ 5 juillet 2006
Par Brian Kerecz - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Aquariums of Pyongyang is the story of one man's life through ten years of captivity in a North Korean incredible story of struggle against man's inhumanity to man. Many who read this book will probably view his family as highly naive for leaving Japan for North Korea and in believing North Korean propaganda over what they heard firsthand from people who had been there. On the docks before leaving, they were warned about going back and about the conditions to be found in North Korea. But, the elder family members were ardent supporters of Kim Il-Sung, and believed the propaganda put out on a daily basis. Little did they know they were putting their kids into a deathtrap from which they would have to endure many years of beatings and privation at the hands of the guards. The reeducation lessons are particularly noteworthy, as readers can gain valuable insight into how this regime works. Even dead people were not immune from being used to inculcate hate.....the picture of the prisoners being forced to throw rocks at the people hanging on the gallows (because they were enemies of the state no less!) until they were unrecognizable is one of the most chilling things I have ever read. All in the name of propping up one of the worst ideologies the world has ever known.

It should be noted that while Yodok was (and is) a terribly inhumane place, it is by the author's account, one of the lesser concentration camps in terms of harsh brutality. This being the case, I could not imagine even a short life in one of the more harsh gulags.

This is a book of required reading for anyone who thinks gulags and concentration camps went away with the demise of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin.
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