Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee--A Look Inside North Korea Hardcover – May 13 2014
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"Jang Jin-sung demonstrates unique insight into the lifestyle and power structures of North Korea's top elite. The tale, ending with his own dramatic escape, depicts Jang's gradual metamorphosis from total conformist, to serious doubter, to enemy of the state."
"A compelling story told with the elegance and poetry of the Orient: a page-turner that will change the way the world sees this enigmatic country." (Susanne Koelbl Der Spiegel)
"Gripping." (David Pilling Financial Times)
"A remarkable story of struggle and survival." (Larry Getlen The New York Post)
"A look inside the mysteries of North Korea by the former poet laureate for the late Kim Jong-il. Likely to fascinate anyone who's read Adam Johnson's Pulitzer-winning novel The Orphan Master's Son." (Jocelyn McClurg USA Today)
"An exciting escape closes this urgent, well-rendered attempt to penetrate North Korea's cynical, criminal power strategy." (Kirkus Reviews (Starred))
"A singular and powerful story, rare not only in its portrait of the inner workings of Pyongyang’s elite circles, but rare because a true writer—almost unheard of in North Korea—was there to see it and to tell it.” (Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master's Son)
About the Author
Jang Jin-sung is a former poet laureate for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Since leaving the country he has become a bestselling author and widely solicited commentator on North Korea. He has been awarded the Rex Warner Literary Prize and read his poetry at London’s Cultural Olympiad in 2012. He now lives in South Korea and is editor in chief of New Focus International, an authoritative website reporting on North Korea.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Jang Jin-sung was a poet who was part of The Admitted, a group of people who were considered closest to Kim Jong-il. He worked for a department responsible for "propaganda writing" that appeared to come from sympathetic South Korean writers. He had access to material and writings from South Korea to help him assume the right tone and identity, but that also led to a growing disillusionment with the leadership within the country. He couldn't reconcile the words and actions of the government (mostly lies) with the reality of what was happening to its citizens. The vast majority of the citizenry were starving, people were jailed and executed for perceived slights against Kim Jong-il, and government cronies were getting perks that the average person would never know.
Jang Jin-sung decided he couldn't take this any longer, so he and a friend took a trip with forged travel passes to a border town close to China. They bluffed their way through encounters with border guards, and finally came to a point where the frozen river was narrow enough to run for it. While they made it across, they immediately became the target of a huge manhunt by Chinese and North Korean authorities. Knowing nobody on the Chinese side of the border, having virtually no money, and travelling in the dead of winter, their lives were constantly in peril. Fortunate encounters with sympathetic Chinese helped them get closer to the chance to get to Seoul, but too many times they were seconds and inches away from capture and a return to North Korea, which would have meant certain death.Read more ›
Jang's story is remarkable in that his insights come from being part of the elite in a society that is so tightly controlled. His insights into the power dynamics of the Kim Dynasty is invaluable to those of us who are only able to see bits and pieces of this mysterious country often portrayed as epitome of an evil state. Perhaps due to the fact that the author served as one of the eight poet laureates of North Korea under Kim Jong-Il, the writing is better than most escapee stories.
Overall, I would recommend this book to both scholars of North Korea and for anyone who enjoys a good thriller.
Copy provided by NetGalley for an honest review.
Even more terrifying is the state of control that the "Dear Leader" exercising over his emaciated subjects. Abject poverty is endemic, all in the service of the Dear Leader. The poverty is more brutal than I could have imagined. Why the Americans don't invade this stupid little country is beyond me. I'm unrealistic, I know. But this is a hell hole that begs for liberation. Forget Teheran. Obliterate this hell-hole.
I give this compelling story only 4 stars because I needed the author's post-escape reflections on the society from which he escaped. I needed more vitriol directed at its "leadership". But no, nothing. The author could have given us some suggestions about what we in the West could do to bring down this piddling excuse for a country.
Most recent customer reviews
I don't cry easily but this book brought me to tears several times. The author is a North Korean refugee but also a poet and brings a poet's sensibility to the heart-thumping story... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Max Layton
A fascinating look behind the last iron curtain. The organisation of the book is a little confusing at times and I would have liked to have read more about the author's integration... Read morePublished 20 months ago by C. Saunders
a must read for anyone interested in an inside look at North Korea - a chronicle well told, gripping and highly informativePublished 20 months ago by nancy kumer
I'm only 25% into this book so far, but I have to say it is really amazing. The candor is refreshing and the story is compelling. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Bittwister