Learning about North Korea

Call me a freak, but I read The Orphan Master’s Son a few weeks ago and I cannot get enough of North Korea.

Well, I should say — I can’t get enough of learning more about North Korea. Discussing this magnum opus of a novel (totally #sohotrightnow! GO READ IT) with my book club made me realize just how little I know about this country that is so thickly shrouded in secrecy. I knew the bare-bone basics, like, mmmm, the South won the war and now the North is a frightening totalitarian communist regime that threatens nuclear attack every two years or so and most of the people there are starving and Kim Jong-Un died two years ago and his son took over and is friends (?) with Dennis Rodman.

That’s about it. So, I’ve done a little more self-educating. Long story short, North Korea is terrifying. How terrifying, you ask? Well, I should let it be known that I used to scoff at the 30 Rock Avery-captured-by-Kim-Jong-Un segment as being so ridiculously over the top absurd that it was not all that funny; but now, after doing a little digging, I’ve begun to realize that their seemingly silly subplot here is actually frighteningly realistic.

Here are some highlights from my ‘research’:

  • Escape from North Korea — I can’t actually vouch for this as I haven’t read it yet, but I just got it from the library and I’ve heard good things. It’s about NK’s underground railroad movement. I’m looking forward to reading it.
  • “North Korea Is Treated As a Joke — But Its Realities Are Deadly Serious”The Guardian published this article three days ago. Reporter Ian Birrell likens his trip to NK to visiting a “Stalinist theme park.” The stories he shares from defectors are harrowing: “Other defectors told of hunger and torture, of forced marriage and abortions. One woman had to leave her Chinese-born son when sent back to North Korea, fearing he might be killed, given the regime’s obsession with racial purity. She was chained to three other women and made to haul heavy loads after being returned. The panel has also heard of mothers forced to drown children in buckets, of men seeing brothers executed, and of families eating lizards and grass in order to survive.”
  • This eight minute documentary from the NYT about North Korean defectors
  • Charlie Crane’s photos of Pyongyang — Crane, a British photographer, finally got permission to enter the country with his camera after trying for approval for more than a year. His images are fascinating and offer a rare glimpse into that stark world. The two images above are his. You can see his collection here (click on ‘Personal’ — ‘Welcome to Pyongyang’).
  • The official webpage of North Korea — Truly chilling.