From first hand accounts of gulag survivors to memoirs of defectors once part of the top echelons of government, here’s our pick of the best books on the secretive kingdom: The Guardian

Escape from North KoreaYou can learn a lot about a country from literature and, when it comes to North Korea, the appetite for information is huge. From first hand accounts of prison camps survivors to defectors once part of the top echelons of government, here’s our pick of the best books to get you started.

1. Aquariums of Pyongyang: 10 years in the North Korean Gulag

The story of Kang Chol-hwan, a defector who spent 10 years in the notorious Yodok camp because his family was under suspicion for having lived in Japan. Billed as “part horror story, part historical document, part political tract”. Kang defected to South Korea a few years after his release, and went on to work as a journalist for Chosun Ilbo.

two-koreas-243x366We are now entering the third era of miscomprehending North Korea. For 50 years, until Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, we were stymied by his “self-reliance” (juche) republic. Then, until Kim Jong Il’s death in 2011, we were flummoxed by his son’s “military-first” (songun) Korea. Now, we are confounded by his grandson Kim Jong Un’s “dual-progress” (byungjin — standing for progress ineconomic development and nuclear capability) Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Among several plans to promote literature, South Korea hopes to send children’s books to the North as part of Incheon’s turn as UNESCO World Book Capital 2015: Publishing Perspectives

The unfolding South Korean ferry tragedy has cast a pall over Incheon’s plans to celebrate its status as UNESCO World Book Capital 2015.  The ferry was traveling from Incheon Port to the southern resort island of Jeju. At the London Book Fair, where Korea was Market Focus, many of the proposed schemes for the year-long accolade were on display.

What can the 10 South Korean writers selected for the book fair this week tell us about a country that has been cut in two? The Star

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After two years of political hot potatoes – first China and then Turkey – this year’s “market focus” country presents a different challenge to the London Book Fair, which runs this week: Who wants to read books from Korea? The choice of name could be dismissed as opportunistically misleading; Korea is two countries, but the 10 writers who will be at the book fair are all from the south.

Researcher finds Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung both credited with fiercely ideological but ‘quite enjoyable’ tales: The Guardian

From Madonna to Barack Obama, celebrities and politicians have long been tempted to dabble in the world of children’s books – but their output pales in comparison to the “ultra” violent tales for children ostensibly written by North Korea’s former leaders Kim Jong-il and his father Kim Il-sung, according to an Australian academic.