Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag

Aquariums of Pyongyang Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag North Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard line Communism Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one party regime quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected

  • Title: Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
  • Author: Kang Chol-Hwan Pierre Rigoulot
  • ISBN: 9780465011025
  • Page: 356
  • Format: Paperback
  • North Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard line Communism Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one party regime, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for re education Kang Chol hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenNorth Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard line Communism Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one party regime, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for re education Kang Chol hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this record of one man s suffering gives eyewitness proof to an ongoing sorrowful chapter of modern history.

    One thought on “Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag”

    1. I'm not sure what it says about me that I can fail the memoir of someone who survived a decade in one of North Korea's most infamous prison camps. From the very beginning I was somewhat skeptical. The back cover promotes the book as what George W. Bush read when he wanted to learn more about the DRPK prior to dubbing it part of the Axis of Evil, and the author writes in the Preface that "I now realize that the Lord wanted me to use President Bush to let the blind world see what is happening to H [...]

    2. The rating I am giving this book is for the writing, not the story. The writing tends toward overly flowery and even tedious ("nocturnal visitation" for dream, for heaven's sake) and I had a very hard time pushing myself through the sentences.I also read this book after reading Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, which was about a man who was born in one of the worst of all camps, and against unimaginable odds, escaped. Because his camp was [...]

    3. Much of Kang Chol-Hwan's memoir of life in North Korea's notorious Yodok prison camp is eye-opening stuff, especially when he tells the story from the inside - he served a ten-year sentence there from the age of nine, as an innocent by-product of being part of an allegedly subversive family. A lot of it, unsurprisingly, is classic misery-memoir, albeit enhanced considerably by the insight that it gives into North Korean society, particularly from within institutions that even North Koreans aren' [...]

    4. خوندن راجع به اردوگاه‌های کار اجباری ناراحت کننده ‌ست، این واقعیت رو به رخ ت می‌کشه که آدم تا چه درجه از پستی میتونه نزول کنه. اما وقتی‌ راجع به گولاگ‌های شوروی یا اردوگاه‌های نازی‌ها میخونی دلت گرمه که فقط خاطره ‌ست و به تاریخ پیوسته، حالا تصور کنید توی قرن بیست و یک همچی [...]

    5. تاکنون دو کتاب از شرح حال زندگی مردمان کره‌شمالی مطالعه کردم.نام کتاب اول، افسوس نمی‌خوریم بود که مستقیما توسط یک روزنامه‌نگار آمریکایی نوشته شده بود.کتاب آکواریوم‌های پیونگ‌یانگ هم از زبان فردی که در اردوگاه‌های کره‌شمالی ۱۰ سال از عمر خود را تلف کرده نگارش شده است.ستا [...]

    6. کانگ چول هوان در کتاب آکواریوم های پیونگ یانگ ده سال حبس در اردوگاه های کار اجباری کره شمالی رو به تصویر می کشه.خانواده ی کانگ چول هوان از ثروتمندان کره ای ساکن ژاپن بودن که برمبنای تبلیغات کشورشون و تمایلات کمونیستیشون تصمیم میگیرن به کشورشون برگردن اما اون چیزی که باهاش موا [...]

    7. I already knew that North Korea was a crazy place, but this book underlines how its regime is both terrifying and utterly odd. I won’t even get into the logic of naming a man as President for eternity, four years after his death. In one of the most powerful images in the book, the author looks across the Yalu river one night. On one side is noisy, busy, lit-up China. Across the bank, North Korea is dark and silent - as North Koreans describe it, “calm as hell”. Some interesting snippets of [...]

    8. We live in a capitalist world. And here if your grandfather supposedly committed a crime and if is proven guilty, he is going to serve time in jail. Think of the shame it would bring to your family and relatives. But on the other hand, imagine you are living in North Korea. Well, you guessed it right. Shame is going to be the least of your concerns when someone from your family is alleged of "counter-revolutionary" activities. If that happens, you, alongwith all of your relatives are seen as cri [...]

    9. A friend happened to be reading this while I was reading Nothing to Envy, and recommended Aquariums of Pyongyang to me.As with one of the people whose story is told in Nothing to Envy, Kang's family is part of the Chosen Soren -- Korean residents of Japan who are sympathetic with North Korea. As a relatively well-off member of North Korean society, his childhood seems rather idyllic until the arrest of his grandfather and the internment of many of his family members in the Yodok camp system.From [...]

    10. As a trained Korean cryptolinguist, I was aware of some of the ways in which the evil regime of Kim Jong Il represses its citizens, but this book painted a clear and detailed portrait of a people so crushed beneath the boot heel of their gov't as to make any lover of liberty despair.Living in the freedom of the U.S it's hard to even conceive of a place where the gov't seems to be trying to map out new territory in the abuse of human beings. Written from the first-person perspective of a man whos [...]

    11. The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag This author, Kang Chol-Hwan, was born in 1969 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kang lived in a very large, luxurious, multi-room apartment in privileged comfort almost unheard of in communist Northern Korea. His family enjoyed the rare conveniences of a refrigerator, washing machine, colored television set and even a car. Kang’s family wealth came, not just from his grandparent’s high social status, but his grandfather’s mass fortun [...]

    12. Please join Seoul Book and Culture Club on Saturday 31st October for a meeting with very special guest Kang Chol-hwan, author of ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang.’ Kang is a defector from North Korea. As well as authoring ‘The Aquariums of Pyongyang’ he worked as a staff writer specializing in North Korean affairs for the The Chosun Ilbo, and is now the president of the North Korea Strategy Center (NKSC). This event will be in English and Korean. (facebook/events/1012881522065)서울북앤컬 [...]

    13. For those who think evil doesn't exist or is a word that shouldn't be said out loud, this memoir is a useful introduction to reality. How else can the North Korean regime be described? How else can a political system that brings out the worst in people be described? Kang's writing is direct and rather without sentimentality, which adds to its force. And in the end, there is the realisation that North Korea's evil political system was created by humans, so it represents the possibility for evil w [...]

    14. كره‌ي شمالي يكي از منزوي‌ترين كشورهاي جهان است كه اطلاعات خاصي از آن به بيرون درز نمي‌كند؛ بيشتر اطلاعاتي كه از آن در دست داريم؛ اخباري است كه از طريق كره‌ي جنوبي؛ دشمنِ اين كشور منتشر مي‌شود(همين امر گاهي موجب ترديد در مورد صحت اخبار منتشره است). اخباري كه عموماً عجيب‌وغر [...]

    15. An easier read than I expected, the cold, hard, truth is told in this biography without sensation. Documenting the struggles of his (South) Korean family after they were lured from Japan to the magnificent ideals of the socialist kingdom of Kim Il-Sung, rare insight into the "Hermit Kindgom" is provided. I learned a lot about the timeline of history in Korea, and Korea culture. It is important to note that the author's experience is limited to his life before his escape (which took place in the [...]

    16. The Aquariums of Pyongyang is a first-hand account of a survivor of the North Korean labor camps. This is the story of a wealthy Korean family who, lured by the promises of the Kim Il-sung's party, found themselves trapped in the North's visible and invisible prisons (the aquariums). In tone and writing focus, Kang Chol-Hwan sets himself as a North Korean Solzhenitsyn (author of the Gulag Archipelago account of the Russian labor camps). Kang Chol-hwan covers in his account his life as a child (" [...]

    17. The situation in north Korea is one I find fascinating and compelling, and even though I've read most of the recent books by defectors, I couldn't feel as though I could speak with much authority on the matter until I had read Aquariums. The first part of the book is very slow, mostly the family background of his grandparents and the war. Force your way through that and the book soon becomes vastly more interesting. I hate hate hate saying that about books of this nature. I had a tough time writ [...]

    18. Na zhruba dvou stovkách stran vypráví bývalý severokorejský vězeň o tom, jak snadné je dostat se v KLDR do koncentračního tábora a jek těžké je tam přežít. Čekal jsem, že některé pasáže budou mnohem drsnější, a jsem rád, že tomu tak nebylo. Na této knize jsou cenné tři věci: Za prvé – ukazuje, jak je snadné uvěřit lákavé propagandě. Rodina Kang Chol-wana žila v Japonsku, kam emigrovali před korejskou válkou. Rodná vlast je ale nalákala zpět, aby bu [...]

    19. I'd split the difference and give it a 3.5. Recently there have been a spate of memoirs covering the horrible gulag system in North Korea, as well as increased scrutiny on this international pariah state that destroys its citizens every bit as effectively as Stalinist Russia and other totalitarian entities. Anyone who has read memoirs of Siberia or the Holocaust will be familiar with the deprivations described. What is surprising is not the suffering, but that anyone manages to survive at all. O [...]

    20. To say that reading this, I got a sense of what it must've been like growing up in North Korea, would be ridiculous. But I hopefully got little inklings.The isolation from the outside world and the hero-worshipping of the dictatorship, seemed to trick the Kang into accepting his lot when he was younger - what else did he know? But when he was sent to Yodok, and witnessed the horrors of the camp, that was when he seemed to realise that all was not right in the state of the North.I think the way t [...]

    21. Okay, this is overall a pretty amazing story.Basically this dude spent his whole childhood in a prison camp for a decade for no real reason. The story takes a while to get started, but if you make it about halfway through you're bound to finish.At one point the story takes us out of the prison camp, and this part was probably the most hair-raising.The real strength of this book is the fact that the prison camp in which the author was held STILL EXISTS and there are people being held there this v [...]

    22. This is a pretty brutal book, as it reads like a Holocaust memoir. The author does address his use of the word "concentration camp" to describe the work camp of Yodok, and it seems pretty appropriate. He served a ten-year sentence there with his whole family for reasons that remain unclear (he was not told) but was probably related to something his grandfather said, and he came as a little kid and left in his late teens. The book also covers the next ten years or so of the family struggling to r [...]

    23. A mostly gripping account of life in a North Korean labour camp. It really opens your eyes to what an evil regime controls the poor unfortunates who happen to be born there. It was hard to believe how those imprisoned could survive the deprivations they suffered and many do not.

    24. There is a fascination with the brutality of the North Korean state that has resulted in the yearly release of a flood of memoirs reflecting on personal experiences in the form of terrifying narratives. The public's thirst for the stories of survivors is so widespread that memoirs such as Shin Dong-hyuk's partly fictional memoir and Suki Kim's criticized memoir-journalism piece - publicity exceptions - appear to be the only ones that seem to stand out from the rest. Chʻŏr-hwan Kang's memoir o [...]

    25. I became interested in North Korea only recently, after seeing the Antena 3 "En Tierra Hostil" episode about North Korea. I found the A3 reporters to come with very specific ideas of what they wanted to see and report, as well as being intentionally offensive and surprisingly hostile to their (Spanish) host. Regardless, this episode did capture my interest, and I have been reading up on North Korea since.I was given this book almost as soon as it came out in English, but as I mentioned, my inter [...]

    26. The Aquariums of Pyongyang is an autobiographical account of a decade spent in a North Korean concentration camp by author Kang Chol-hwan, who was imprisoned alongside his family at the age of nine. My first real introduction to the North Korean situation came via Barbara Demick's excellent account Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea in 2011. By habit I don't read a great deal of non-fiction, but I was so shocked and moved by Demick's book that I also purchased Escape from Camp 14 and [...]

    27. I've read a few books about North Korea by now--the standouts have been Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and the fictional The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. Both of those, of course, are by Americans, outsiders and observers of the North Korean terrarium. This book is the first-hand memoir of North Korean Kang Chol-Hwan as related to the French journalist Pierre Rigoulot. As the title indicates, Kang spent ten years in a Korean concentration camp--from the a [...]

    28. This is a fascinating, but depressing autobiography of North Korean defector, Kang Chol-Hwan. I've been reading a few books about North Korea of late, so I may be a bit North Korea-ed out. And the really tragic thing is that this guy had a REALLY bad time, and yet this isn't the worst life story I've read. It's horrific to thing of what has been going on there, and what is still going on, and for what? "Someone" is going on one seriously crazily massive ego trip with this ludicrus cult of person [...]

    29. This book is a bit too bare-bones for me, even though it does go into a fair amount of sickening detail of life in a North Korean camp.I'll share two important parts:"I was also terribly sad to be leaving Yi Sae-bong and his stories of Japanese life. There were other prisoners who had offered me their friendship and help during very hard times. With them I had shared rat meat and heaped maledictions on the Wild Boar; with them I had buried the beautiful young girl and taken revenge on the corpse [...]

    30. If George Orwell's 1984 was real, it would be North Korea. After reading Blaine Harden's account of Shin Dong-hyuk's life (being born and "raised" in Camp 14 because his parents were sent there as enemies of the state), I turned to the Aquariums of Pyongyang. Which gives a rather different perspective on these camps. Kang grew up in Pyongyang as a young child, raised in an environment of propaganda, whorshipping Kim Il-sung and King Yong-il. Kang's grandmother had persuaded the family to move fr [...]

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