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In North Korea: An American Travels Through an Imprisoned Nation Paperback – July, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0786416912 ISBN-10: 0786416912
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A reasonably accurate sense of horrific conditions in [North Korea] and of the desperation felt by many of its people" -- Los Angeles Times

"An excellent book for understanding what famine looks like...recommended" -- Catholic Library World

"Fascinating and important...excellent appendix and index...recommended" -- Library Journal

About the Author

Writer Nanchu lives in Athens Georgia. Her articles have appeared in Rocky Mountain News, Mid-US News, and Shanghai Health News. Xing Hang is an Eastern Studies scholar at the University of Georgia. He lives in Doraville.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Mcfarland & Co Inc Pub (July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786416912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786416912
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,781,457 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This was a fascinating book. I recommend it highly. I find myself referring back to it again and again, because author Nanchu has, within its pages, summarized a lot of hard-to-find information from varying sources. The information is accurate, as far as I could see. She mentions many little things that I don't think have been published elsewhere, although one can find them on the Internet if you look enough.
She also goes into length about the current situation with North Korean defectors in Northeast China. Few books contain anything on this subject, and this book contains quite a bit, including many stories from the defectors themselves.
It was *very* interesting to get her perspective on North Korea as a Chinese-American who was brought up in China. She would not have been able to write this book if she was still living in China. No way. And obviously, no North Korean, except for the very few who are living here in the US, could have written this book.
(Not many Americans realize that even the several thousand North Korean defectors in South Korea, who are theoretically in a 'free' country, are kept on pretty short leashes these days by the Roh regime. Why? Because the current South Korean leadership doesn't want the world knowing just how bad things are for their Northern bretheren, for reasons I can only guess.)
From the beginning, it was clear to me at least that the North Koreans Nanchu met on her trip were significantly more open and forthright with her - more than they would have been with other outsiders.
Perhaps Chinese people enjoy a level of access to this extremely closed society that no other outsiders (or even few North Koreans!!!) enjoy.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Merrily Baird on December 30, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To rework a familiar phrase, it might be said that it takes a library of books to know North Korea. And one of those books is surely "In North Korea: An American Travels through an Imprisioned Nation." The primary author of this book is Nanchu, a Chinese emigre now living in the United States, who travelled with a group of Chinese tourists to North Korea.
The good news regarding this book is the ground truth provided by Nanchu's detailed observations and the perspective she brings to her task by having experienced Communist rule in another country. Even though her group was confined to sanitized, prestige sites deemed appropriate for tourists, she still observed the ravages of food shortages, even in the case of privileged soldiers, the grim state of city infrastructures, and the Orwellian controls imposed by the state's security apparatus. In addition, if you follow North Korea's radio broadcasts regarding the activities of Kim Chong-il, you will find in the book information that brings to life his penchant for micromanagement and illustrates some of his preoccupations, such as introducing catfish breeding and erecting buildings with extraordinary shapes. "In North Korea" is less successful when it presents--often without critical assessment and sometimes with badly mangled details--information culled from the internet and other books.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gentle Reader on January 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
I bought this book based on the positive reviews I read here on Amazon, and was sorely disappointed.

If you've never read anything else about North Korea, this book *could* be interesting. If you have read even a single book on the topic, however, you will find little new information here.

Based on the title, I imagined I'd read about Nanchu climbing over fences and evading police to glimpse the forbidden secrets of North Korea. Far from it. Nanchu's "travels" through North Korea were simply a banal package tour--similar or identical to the experience of any common tourist to the country. Most of the book consists of well-known information already available in secondary sources. Worse yet, the book is poorly written, poorly edited, and dull.

If you want an "expat in North Korea" book, why not read one by someone who actually saw something in the country? I highly recommend "Comrades and Strangers" by Harrold (who worked in Pyongyang for a couple of years) or "North Korea Under Communism" by Cornell (Swedish ambassador to NK for 3 years). The upcoming book "Pyongyang" by Delisle also looks promising.

There are so many excellent books on North Korea these days. Please don't waste your time with this one.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on June 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
The primary author is a Chinese-American who used her Chinese language skills to take a short trip into North Korea. Formerly North Korea greeted Chinese as welcome comrades; since China has moved in a capitalist direction this relationship has become quite strained, at best.

The great famine unfolding in North Korea at the time of Nanchu's visit (2001) reminded her of childhood in china during a 3-year famine caused by Mao's ordering peasants to put down their hoes and set up shabby furnaces to produce iron. The fields became deserted and no good harvests were realized during that period. (Problems include drought, shortage of fertilizer, limited incentives for the farmers, and bureaucratic meddling.) The author was also a former Red Guard leader, and thus her comparisons are particularly meaningful.

Early on, "Inside North Korea" compares two cities separated by the Yalu River. Nanchu remembered China's Dandong as lacking basic necessities (cooking oil, soap, sugar) in the 1960s, and was impressed with its current tall buildings, shining cars, and overflowing markets, especially compared to Sinuiju (no cars, buses, most windows without glass, shared rooms and toilets.

Chinese (and other) visitors must turn over their cell phones, and are very limited in what can be photographed. The North Korean train moved at only about 10 mph, and foreign passengers were closely inspected - especially their written material. Readers almost immediately also are confronted with a major problem - starving N.K. citizens. The U.N. estimated about 4 million N.K. children were near death in 2002.

Non-productive investments (large-scale monuments and exhibition halls; omnipresent security police and the world's 4th largest army) are an obvious drain on resources.
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In North Korea: An American Travels Through an Imprisoned Nation
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