Book Review: Your Republic is Calling You

Kim Young-ha: Your Republic is Calling You Translated by Kim Chi-young Harcourt, 2010. First published in Korean: 2006 Ki-yong, a North Korean agent, has lived undercover in Seoul for half his life. Inactive for the last 10 years, he is suddenly given an order to return home. Is the order a hoax? Is he being […]

Illusive Utopia reviewed in the Asia Times

Looks like a fascinating book on North Korean arts. Michael Rank reviews “Illusive Utopia” by Suk-young Kim in the Asia Times: http://bit.ly/96S7hq # This impressively researched book examines performance in North Korea in great detail and in its widest sense, from theater and film to visual art and literature and even fashion

Demick wins Samuel Johnson prize

Congratulations to Barbara Demick for winning the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nothing to Envy (reviewed by LKL here) Through extensive interviews with defectors, Los Angeles Times journalist Barbara Demick shows in a compelling and unforgettable way that this hermetic country is Orwell’s 1984 made reality. Sources: Samuel Johnson Prize website | Guardian #

Book review: Life on the Edge of the DMZ

Lee See-woo: Life on the Edge of the DMZ Global Oriental, 2008 Translated by Kim Myung-hee I’ve been dipping in and out of this fascinating though often overly complex book by peace activist Lee Si-Woo. It’s sometimes hard to tell whether the English translation – for the most part unfussy ­– is sometimes too literal, […]

Book review: Hwang Sun-won – The Descendants of Cain

Hwang Sun-won: The Descendants of Cain Translated by Suh Ji-moon and Julie Pickering East Gate / UNESCO, 1997. Originally published 1954 Novels set in post-liberation Korea, or during the Korean war, often make uncomfortable reading, particularly those set in the Soviet sphere of influence, and where the story is set in the countryside. The historical […]

Barbara Demick talks about her book Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea

In her new book Nothing to Envy – Real Lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick uncovers the secrets of the world’s most secretive country, through the stories of six North Koreans. Covering illicit love affairs, party loyalty and crippling poverty, the stories are the result of tenacious investigations and interviews in a country not connected […]

Bamboo and Blood: Inspector O is back on form

James Church: Bamboo and Blood St Martin’s Press, 2008 After Inspector O’s slightly disappointing second outing, James Church is back on form with the third novel in the series, Bamboo and Blood. In another fast-paced story, set against the backdrop of the North Korean 1997 famine and the US-DPRK talks in Geneva, Inspector O is […]

Book review: The Reluctant Communist

Charles Robert Jenkins: The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea University of California Press, 2008 “Our choices are what makes us who we are. Nobody knows that better than me.” So ends the autobiography of Charles Robert Jenkins, the only American to spend most of his life in North Korea […]

Korea Yearbook 2008

Korea Yearbook 2008 Eds Rüdiger Frank, James E Hoare, Patrick Köllner, Susan Pares Brill, 2009 The 2008 Korea Yearbook – Politics, Economy and Society does many of the things that a reader might expect: it contains a collection of papers which review the key developments in its chosen subject areas for the past year. At […]

James Church: Hidden Moon

(Thomas Dunne Books, 2007) After A Corpse in the Koryo, the rip-roaring start to the Inspector O series, Hidden Moon comes as a bit of a disappointment. Maybe the freshness of the debut is a tough act to follow, but somehow the first time round Inspector O had more character. He’s still got his quirky […]

Pyongyang – the view from Europe

Glyn Ford (with Kwon Soyoung): North Korea on the Brink (Pluto Press, 2008) Books on North Korea tend to blur in to one another. There are seemingly countless volumes either describing life under the Kims or analysing the history of diplomatic and undiplomatic engagement between the DPRK and the rest of the world, particularly the […]

Charlie Crane: Welcome to Pyongyang

Chris Boot, 2007 The new photo book on Pyongyang can be appreciated on a number of levels. Firstly, there’s the literal level: it’s a collection of well-taken photos, with captions provided by the North Korean Tourist Board. But like it or not, whenever you see anything in which the North Koreans have had a hand, […]