Things I don’t get in the world – like North Korea.

I got an email the other day that a book I had reserved from the library was in – The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-Hwan.  It’s the story of a North Korean defector who spent some ten years in the North Korean “gulag” system, one of the most disturbing penal systems in the world.  I’ve been wanting to read it for a  long time and finally got around to getting it from the library.  I’ve been fascinated by the sick anomaly that is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for quite a while.  It is proof of a theory I read about a while ago that any country whose official name includes the words “democratic” and “republic” is neither.  North Korea is far from those things, it is some sort of insane Stalinist theme park that would be in some weird way humourous, save for the fact that millions of people live there and suffer under the world’s only Communist dynasty.

North Korea seems to endure because the Kim Family Regime (as it’s officially called) has learned well from its predecessors, particularly East Germany (which, in further proof of the theory above, was officially the German Democratic Republic, you likely recall).  It has done its best to screen out the influence of all foreign media, especially that from South Korea, to keep its people as ignorant of the outside world as possible, as indoctrinated into the Kim cult as possible.  I think the only real contender for doing this so was was Albania under Hoxha, and even they have since failed.

It’s a really, really depraved place to read about, and I have a hard time understanding how it manages to survive.

But I couldn’t blog well about it, other than the fact that I’m reading this book and might put up more about it.  Instead, I’ll shill for two sites I really enjoy checking in on from time to time – http://www.nkeconwatch.com and http://www.freekorea.us – two good sources.  The former, in particular, is the source of an incredibly fascinating Google Earth overlay of the DPRK, including all of the known prison camps, whose size and scale are absolutely staggering when you consider how many people might be detained in them.  If you don’t know this already – in North Korea, three generations of a political prisoner’s family face incarceration for even the slightest offence against the Cult of Kim.

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