Most helpful critical review
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Not worth buying.
on January 20, 2002
This is a very poorly written book.
To be fair, it could be that the book suffers from a double translation: from Korean to French, then from French to English. It could also be that the book seems to have been dictated (during meetings with the original French translator), then put into narrative form. Nevertheless, the prose itself is rambling, unfocused, and full of interludes, both long and short, that lead nowhere.
The information about the North Korean "gulag" system (if one can appropriate this term for hard-labor camps outside the USSR) is really nothing new. It certainly nothing that isn't publicly available on one of the many, excellent on-line journals documenting human rights abuses in North Korea (i.e. nkhumanrights.or.kr). Really , this presents very few insights.
What is interesting, however, is the author's description of his nostalgic, childhood views of life in Pyongyang, and the efficacy with which children are brainwashed to worship Kim Il-sung and his son. It is also informative to read about the rampant corruption in North Korea, which the author learns to manipulate after his release from the "gulag," as well as the mundane, everyday violence born of the ennui of North Korean life. Apart from that, there ain't much to recommend it.
Since these passages represent maybe 10% of the book's 200-plus pages, the reader would be much better served by skiming the book at the library, rather than adding this title to his library.