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This is Paradise! Paperback – July 5, 2007
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
An engrossing picture of a nation that remains closed to the world, aptly described as the "Jurasic Park of communism''―SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
Kang recounts his life with the kind of deadpan detail that is all the more powerful for its quiet understatement . . . His capacity as a storyteller turns out to be masterly . . . The result is a small jewel of a book, one that moves you with compassion―MAIL ON SUNDAY
This is a rare and precious insight into the most obscure regime on earth through the startled and observant eyes of a thirteen-year-old boy who not only escaped but survived to tell this harrowing yet intriguing tale. The most penetrating account of life in North Korea I have ever read―Jon Snow
Top Customer Reviews
The book starts covering general day to day life. By Western standards, the rich Kang family is poor. Kang talks about day to day life-- how he often slept at his grandparents house, what he thought of his teachers, what he learned in school. You learn about the rigid hierarchy imposed on the students and their uniforms and what the different badges mean, both officially and unofficially in the school yard.
Then, the famine starts. Kang's family's wealth is slowly drained away. His disillusionment grows-- he starts writing alternate lyrics to patriotic songs. Lyrics that, if found out, would get him and his family killed. School stops being about learning and starts being about farming government fields with food that they will never see unless the steal it in the dead of night (which Kang does). They hunt rats and eat tree bark and grass. Hanging out with your friends involves going to their house to say your final goodbyes as they slowly and horribly starve to death. (Kang estimates around 75% of his classmates died during these years.)
Executions are common place. Bodies are padded so the blood doesn't spray the crowd. During the winter, the bodies steam. People are eating the dead in order to survive-- people are killing each other in order to eat them.
In 1998, the family escapes to China. You know things are bad when China is a rich paradise. Kang couldn't believe that, in China, people at rice every day.Read more ›
Hyok Kang's "This Is Paradise!" comes following the success of Kang Chul Hwan's best-seller, "The Aquariums of Pyongyang", the first book written by a North Korean refugee about life in North Korea and escape from the communist country. Hyok Kang's account is shorter than Kang Chul Hwan's, and it does not provide the same detailed historical background of North Korea or the opinionated analysis found in "The Aquariums of Pyongyang." This is understandable considering that Kang Chul Hwan is significantly older than Hyok Kang (who was only born in 1986). Kang Chul Hwan had also spent significantly more time in South Korea before writing his book, giving him more of a chance to learn about communism worldwide and the recent history on the Korean peninsula.
While there are many parallels between this book and "Aquariums of Pyongyang," Hyok Kang's situation was notably different from that of Kang Chul Hwan. Whereas Kang Chul Hwan living in North Korea during the 1970s and 80s, when Kim Il Sung was president, Hyok Kang experienced North Korea under the rule of Kim Jong Il in the 1990s, when there was a severe shortage of food and a reported 3 million people died of starvation. While Kang Chul Hwan came from a privileged family living in Pyongyang, Hyok Kang hails from the Northeastern city of Onsong, far removed from the capital.Read more ›
The horrors of daily life under the psychotic Kim dynasty comes to life in this volume. The authors did a good job bringing out detail and experience from a young subject, a North Korean refugee who was probably barely in his teens at the time the book was compiled. One certainly comes away with a very clear picture of the depressing reality of daily life, if one can call existence there a life.
Particularly stark are the stories of survival and what it takes just to keep from starving to death in a country that seems to have plenty of money to spend on its military and on nuclear weapons, but not enough resources to feed its own people. It's depressing to see in the book just how animalistic people become in a situation of famine like this, transforming as the authors show into selfishness and concern only for one's own survival in just eeking out enough calories to stay barely alive. This manifests itself to the extreme of parents abandoning children so they can keep themselves alive. Far from judging these poor souls, I found myself questions how I would act in a similar situation.
The book also presents evidence of the craven, wholesale theft of foreign food aid by North Korean party hacks.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Get the real skinny on the Hermit Kingdom instead of the CNN version based on ..? well Cnn arent allowed in so they have only second hand knowledge. Read morePublished 15 months ago by robert stallard
Not bad, I have read most if not all of the books on North Korea or by ex citizens since 2000. I liked this as it was an interesting perspective that we don't get to hear much,... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Erica Kimberly
Should be read by many westerners to really understand what communism is. Unfortunately I came from such a country.Published 16 months ago by Micky
Very fascinating! Coming from the former Soviet country, I can totally understand how this regime can take over. This is truly an insane version of it. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Searcher
I love reading about other cultures and this book brought to me the darkside that is North Korea.Published 18 months ago by Deborah Aures
Very interesting account of life in North Korea. Highly recommend this bookPublished 19 months ago by Maria Luczkow
I am just fascinated by these stories of people who lived in North Korea. This one tells of someone who rose to the upper ranks of "society" but his family and many friends... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Houston Hottie
North Korea is Ok in the Summer. I know most girls would rather be here!---we have dried shrimp and Charlie Chaplin Movies!! Read morePublished 19 months ago by j7general
This book totally disuaded me from considering No. Korea other than the worst place on earth.Published 21 months ago by R. Lon Hubbard