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Customer Review

25 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book that leaves some questions, July 30, 2009
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This review is from: This is Paradise! (Paperback)
For the most part, I thought this was an excellent book. However, a few of the events that the author describes seem a bit strange. In an early scene, the author describes how his grandfather killed and cooked a cat by placing it in a pot of boiling water. If any of you have experience with even a small, panicked animal, the scene as described seems highly unlikely. I once tried to put a strange cat in a cage, and thank god I had the foresight to put on a pair of welding gloves beforehand. That cat would have bitten my thumb to the bone. The scene seems calculated to pull at the Westerner's heartstrings by describing an act of cruelty against an animal that we (but not all Asians) regard as a pet.

The description of an execution by firing squad is also strange. We are told that the condemned is made to wear a special cotton padded suit to absorb any blood. But then we are told that the guards always aim for the head (to spectacular effect) on the second shot. Also, we are told that the condemned are tied to a pole with three ropes, and that each rifle volley cuts a rope in sequence so that the body falls into a waiting sack on the ground. Now, I am not an expert marksman, but I am a decent shot. The idea that, even with volume fire (and probably brass jacketed military cartridges), you could somehow reliably sever three ropes in sequence, seems a bit of a stretch. Perhaps he really saw the event, and his description of why it was done in a particular way was part of the "folklore" that sprang up after the fact. I'm not sure but as described the scene doesn't smell right.

The author claims that everyone is taught English, but then he also states that radios and televisions are modified so that they can only receive broadcasts from North Korea. It seems odd to me that a regime that is so paranoid about outside influences would teach English to everyone. Why not restrict English to the party cadres, and/or professionals with a definite need to speak the language? This point doesn't bother me as much as the others, but I would like independent verification of this fact.

I gave the book three stars, because although the story is compelling, there is something odd about it. I don't doubt that the North Korean regime is a particularly nasty one, and the truth that comes out of formerly communist countries is usually even nastier than we can imagine. However, history also shows that often these survivor's tales cannot be relied upon. We don't know who the author "really" was in NK, or what his motives might be in telling this story.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 30, 2010 1:33:55 AM PDT
Yankee says:
I agree with you on the firing squad scenario (if it is so stated in the book, I have not read it yet). I also am an above average shot, and I certainly don't see the deprived DPRK army as being capable of hitting the ropes (if they are firing from over two to three meters distance). There's always this South Korean tendency to exhagerrate on North Korean attributes/capabilities, maybe it has rubbed off on the author.

Posted on Aug 9, 2010 9:22:25 AM PDT
Ai Kusuhara says:
I just wanted to point out the thing about cats is true. You can watch it at the following link:

Posted on Dec 23, 2010 9:19:26 PM PST
Nina N. says:
Interesting observations--it's so true that when we are told a compelling and particularly bad story it seems wrong to question the validity of any of it. However, in my work with refugees, I have noticed there are tendencies to include hearsay or collective stories as one's own experience. I am no psychologist but I wonder if there is something about trauma that confuses things?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 26, 2013 2:10:04 PM PDT
GG says:
Those who speak English are their greatest enemies so why not know their language..keep your enemies closest, so to speak
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