Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag

Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag

Chol-hwan Kang, Pierre Rigoulot

Language: English

Pages: 166


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

North Korea is today one of the last bastions of hard-line Communism. Its leaders have kept a tight grasp on their one-party regime, quashing any nascent opposition movements and sending all suspected dissidents to its brutal concentration camps for "re-education." Kang Chol-hwan is the first survivor of one of these camps to escape and tell his story to the world, documenting the extreme conditions in these gulags and providing a personal insight into life in North Korea. Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this record of one man's suffering gives eyewitness proof to an ongoing sorrowful chapter of modern history.</Div>

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soon, and in the dark we would be at a complete loss. My uncle, who knew the place a little better than the rest of us, offered to help. He went out and chopped down a small tree for firewood, but the green logs burned so piteously and raised so much smoke that one of our neighbors offered some of his own stock—along with the suggestion that we start working on a woodpile of our own. The greatest challenge of the night was still before us, however. We needed to figure out how to cook rice over

been picked for the nasty job several times in a row. “I’m always the one,” he whined. “Don’t the teachers have anything better for us to do? It’s probably because they like shit!” Someone must have gone to squeal to the Wild Boar, because a minute later we saw him walking toward us looking mad as hell. He grabbed the guilty student and started beating him savagely, first punching him with his clenched fists, then kicking him. Battered and wobbly-legged, the boy fell into the septic tank, where

A former cadre of the Korean Communist Party in Japan, he’d become one the camp’s most dreaded informants. Many prisoners had him to thank for extra work details; his snitching had even sent several people to the sweatbox. While he was hated by all the prisoners at Yodok, it was the children who despised him most. His bald head and round face were the targets of countless taunts and jeers. One day, as we were passing in front of the soybean-processing shop where he worked, he tried to peek out at

we had the privilege of having Kim Il-sung’s extended New Year’s address read to us. The speech was the focal point of a two-day event featuring an absurd recitation contest. It could have been worse, though. It was January—a time when the thermometer often dipped well below 0˚F—and instead of being outside, we were gathered in a well-heated room. On the first day, we transcribed the speech in one of our notebooks, while the guards walked around to make sure we were making an effort. The next

on behalf of the unfortunate souls attempting to flee repression and famine. All of us, we and the government, must be more active. We are all brothers it seems, but our sisters are being bought and sold at the border. Are we to continue showing such restraint? The shortages in food, energy, and medicine are serious. According to anecdotal reports by journalists, there have been countless victims. Estimates are that famine will cause between 1 and 3 million deaths. No more accurate number is

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