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 Part horror story, part historical document, part memoir, part political tract, this record of one man's suffering gives eyewitness proof to an ongoing sorrowful chapter of modern history.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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meals! Never exchanging a word. Just grunting, like people who had forgotten all their good manners. We had brought kitchen utensils with us from Pyongyang, but they soon broke or wore out, at which point we had to use the mess tins distributed by the camp. Easily dented and immediately blackened by the open flames, they were ugly as could be. Yet what choice did we have? We had to make them last as long as possible, filling the holes with whatever we had at our disposal, or soldering them at

us. In North Korea, each county (do) is divided into several cantons (gun), and each canton into several districts. For the time being, we were not permitted to leave our gun, which was a part of the county of Yodok. This restriction was applied to all recently released prisoners. We spent our first night in a run-down little hotel where I dreamt I was still in the camp. When I woke up, I still thought I was there. But a glance at the white floors brusquely reminded me that I was “out.” In the

we only needed to give the agent a little money to go for a walk. . . . The authorities, in any case, really have nothing to fear from visiting relatives—who know the danger they would be putting their family members in if they talked. EIGHTEEN THE CAMP THREATENS AGAIN Around this time, I reestablished contact with my friend Yi Yongmo—the boy who once became delirious in the middle of class. His family had been released from Yodok four years before we had, but it now looked like they

bureaucratic needs in exchange for gifts and loans was avoiding me; worse yet, he wouldn’t accept my gifts. Was it now compromising to receive something from my hand? One day, I managed to corner him and get the scoop. “You’re under surveillance,” he admitted. “A buddy of yours ratted on you for listening to South Korean radio.” After making me promise never to reveal my source, he fingered my accuser. I was flabbergasted—it was someone I considered a friend! I never had a clue. Nothing pleased

In time, I was granted authorization to leave the interrogation center—with a companion, of course. He showed me the famous sites of Seoul: City Hall, Namdaemun, the banks of the Han River, the parks, Itaewon. One evening, we went up the Namsam Television Tower and saw all of Seoul lit up below us. The view filled me with wonder. What most struck me, however, was the way people led their lives. Everyone seemed free to do as they wished. No system organized their movements and activities. I have

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