From the 1948, North and South Korea had been a reflection of the bipolar world view generated by the Second World War. The North lives under Communist rule and the South leans towards the Capitalistic worldview, primarily mooted by the United States of America.
After the Korean War (1950-53), the two countries stood divided till recently. Now a time has come when a South Korean Farmer’s Cooperative wants to publish thirteen North Korean novels.
Earlier South Korean greats like Park Wan Suh brought out novels about the war. Some have been translated to English. They spoke of the sadness of the war and the way it divided people from similar cultural backgrounds — much in the tradition of other countries recovering from the backlash of colonial regimes that dominated Asian history during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Read more
By James Kidd
North Korea – or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, if you prefer – has been a growing source of fascination for the rest of the world since 1948, when “supreme leader” Kim Il-sung began fashioning the “workers’ state” into what’s now widely described as the hermit kingdom.
Dynastic rule has continued with his son, Kim Jong-il, and grandson, Kim Jong-un, who have also perpetuated the tradition of thumbing the national nose at the wider world in general and the United States, in particular.
With the nation again embroiled in geopolitical brinkmanship, Post Magazine picks 10 essential books for a better understanding of North Korea.
Nothing To Envy, by Barbara Demick (2009)
Arguably the best-known book about North Korea, this finalist for the United States’ National Book Award and winner of Britain’s Samuel Johnson Prize profiles six ordinary North Koreans trying to escape from the provincial town of Chongjin. Read more
Source: South China Morning Post
By Choe Sang -Hun
It was a dog-eared manuscript, 743 pages bound in string. But for Do Hee-youn, an activist campaigning for human rights in North Korea, it was nothing less than stunning.
In 2013, Mr. Do got hold of what he believed was the first manuscript by a living dissident writer in North Korea that had been smuggled out. Written in meticulous longhand on the coarse brown manuscript paper used in North Korea, the book — a collection of seven short stories — was a fierce indictment of life in the totalitarian North. The author wrote of living “like a machine that talked, a yoked human.”
Thanks to Mr. Do’s efforts, the book, “The Accusation,” written under the pseudonym Bandi (“Firefly” in Korean), has found audiences around the world. It has been translated into 18 languages and published in 20 countries. Translated by Deborah Smith into English and published by Grove Press, “The Accusation: Forbidden Stories From Inside North Korea” hit the United States market this month. Read more
Source: The New York Times
By Vick Mickunas
The Inspector O series of novels by James Church are as mysterious as the man who writes them. These books straddle that murky parallel between crime fiction and espionage novels. His latest, “The Gentleman from Japan,” submerges readers in intrigues that are almost indecipherable in their opaqueness.
“James Church” is the pen name and pseudonym for a long-time intelligence officer who has spent many years operating in the vicinity of North Korea. Inspector O, his fictional sleuth, is a retired North Korean police inspector. In this sixth book in the series, Inspector O is living quietly with his nephew in a city in China along the border with North Korea.
O’s nephew, Major Bing, occupies a post with the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Bing is the son of O’s brother, who made an appearance in the first novel. O didn’t get along too well with his late brother, a man who had seemed slavishly loyal to the North Korean regime. Read more
Source: Springfield News-Sun
Sungju Lee was born in Pyongyang, North Korea. He had an idyllic childhood with a good home, a bright future, and parents who cared deeply for him. But as he describes in his memoir (written with Susan McClelland), his life was abruptly turned upside down and became harder than he could have imagined after his father fell out of favour with the country’s brutal regime.
As a child, Lee never questions the regime or its leader (first Kim Il-sung and then Kim Jong-il); his greatest dream is to become a general and serve his country. Then he arrives home one day to be told his family is leaving on a “northern vacation.” Lee, who is 11, moves north to Gyeong-seong, where he is immediately shocked by the differences between the capital city where he grew up and what he sees in the rest of the country.
Lee describes these events from his childhood perspective; as such, he only gradually realizes he has moved into a famine area. This drastic shift in circumstances means that, despite a burning desire to study, Lee must leave school to help his parents in their daily searches for food. As the situation becomes increasingly desperate, first Lee’s father and then his mother disappear. Before he reaches his teens, Lee is on his own. Read more
When Adam Johnson won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, for a novel set in North Korea, many were surprised that an American academic who had spent just five days in the country could write so convincingly and colourfully about the hermit kingdom. Understand a little about the author and his life, though, and it begins to make sense.
The success of The Orphan Master’s Son (Random House) turned Johnson almost overnight from what he calls a “normal writer” into one with celebrity status.
“North Korea is a topic that people care about around the world, so suddenly I started getting invited everywhere,” says Johnson, a professor of English at Stanford University, in the United States.
But there was a drawback to the international invitations – separated from his family he began to get lonely. The solution? Take them with him.
“Everywhere I go I drag my wife and kids,” says Johnson.
So, when he arrives for the Hong Kong International Literary Festival this week, he’ll do so accompanied by a family entourage of four. Read more
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
You 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.
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. Read more
We 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. Read more
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. Read more
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
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. Read more