The scariest place on earth.’ So said President Bill Clinton on his visit to the no-man’s land between South and North Korea in 1993. With the end of the Cold War in Europe, the minefields and barbed wire that divide the two Koreas constitute the jagged edge of world peace. If the world is to endure a nuclear holocaust, Korea is the likely flashpoint.
Although one can peep inside Stalinist North Korea from the capitalist South, to set foot within that hermetic state requires a journey of several thousand miles–from Seoul to Hong Kong, from Hong Kong to Beijing, and from Beijing to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. And this presupposes that the North Korean Embassy in Beijing will happily grant a visa to any itinerant Westerner requesting one–which, as this book explains, is not the case.
This book, then, is a collection of field observations and reflections by Clive Leatherdale who undertook two separate journeys to South Korea and North Korea. This book title comes from the familiar Korean folk tale of “dreaming of a pig” as a good omen of fortune and enrichment, the story that he was told by a student in South Korea. The writer makes a conscious attempt to draw parallels between his modern day travels and the earlier accounts of Westerners’ travels to Korea’s hermit-kingdom in bygone eras.